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BEIJING, May 13. /TASS/. The United States should refrain from provocations in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday.
The Chinese diplomat's statement came in the wake of an article published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, saying the US Department of Defense was considering using aircraft and Navy ships to contest Chinese territorial claims to a group of rapidly expanding artificial islands in the South China Sea known as the Spratly chain (called the Nansha Islands by China).
The South China Sea has been an area of a long-lasting territorial dispute between several countries in the region, including China, over a group of islands rich in hydrocarbon reserves.
"We urge corresponding countries to refrain from risky and provocative actions and take practical measures to ensure peace and stability in the region," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
"The Chinese side has always supported the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea but this does not mean that foreign combat ships or aircraft can freely enter the territorial waters or the air space of another state," the Chinese diplomat said.
The Wall Street Journal reported on its website on Tuesday that "Defense Secretary Ash Carter has asked his staff to look at options that include flying Navy surveillance aircraft over the islands and sending U.S. naval ships to within 12 nautical miles of reefs that have been built up and claimed by the Chinese in an area known as the Spratly Islands," the US paper said.
Beijing has been involved for several decades in a territorial dispute with several countries over the sovereignty of a whole group of islands in the South China Sea where huge offshore hydrocarbon deposits have been discovered.
The territorial dispute has primarily focused on the Shisha (Paracel) archipelago, the Nansha (Spratly) and Huangyan Islands and also involves such countries as Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Since late 2013, China has been carrying out large-scale hydraulic works for expanding and developing territories under its control.