China on Tuesday demanded the United States cease what it called illegal activities in the South China Sea, as it rejected Pentagon assertions that Chinese vessels harassed a US Navy ship there.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said US complaints that five Chinese ships had harassed a US Navy ship in the South China Sea were “totally inaccurate.”
“The US Navy ship Impeccable broke international law and Chinese laws and regulations,” Ma told reporters in a news briefing.
“China has made solemn representations to the United States requesting that the US immediately stop these activities and take effective measures to avoid similar activities in the future.”
The United States said it had formally protested to Chinese authorities over Sunday’s incident in the South China Sea, about 75 miles (120 kilometres) south of China’s Hainan Island in international waters.
The dispute added a new dimension to fragile military relations between the world powers, which had enjoyed a brief period of slight optimism after the two held defence talks in Beijing last month.