China says don't 'hype up' freedom of navigation in South China Sea

BEIJING (Reuters) - The issue of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea should not be “hyped up” or used as an excuse for provocation, China’s defense minister said on Wednesday, in response to recent U.S. action in the sea.

Minister of National Defence Chang Wanquan made the remarks at a forum of Southeast Asian defense ministers, his ministry said in a microblog posting, after the group scrapped plans for a joint statement at the end of the talks, reflecting heightened tension over the South China Sea.

The United States recently called a voyage by one of its warships near one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago a freedom-of-navigation patrol.

Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel