South China Sea
China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea via a massive dredging project US Navy/Reuters

China has reacted angrily after the G7 group of nations said they opposed unilateral actions that could increase tension in the East and South China Seas. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman warned G7 member states to "stop making irresponsible remarks" and urged them to play a "constructive role for regional peace and stability".

After holding talks in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 11 April, G7 ministers said in a joint statement that they strongly opposed "intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions" in the region.

China has grown increasingly assertive on maritime territorial disputes with South East Asian nations in recent years, with the country claiming most of the South and East China seas as part of its sovereign territory.

Beijing has also built artificial islands in the midst of a reef system in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands – increasing tension with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, who all have overlapping claims on the territory.

It is also involved in a separate dispute with Japan over a group of eight uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

'Irresponsible actions'

"China's stance on the East and South China Seas are consistent and clear," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.

John Kerry
Foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations met in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 10 April REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

He insisted that it was within Beijing's sovereign rights to build structures on the Spratly Island chain and that the Chinese government remained committed to resolving territorial disputes with countries in accordance with international law.

"We urge the G7 member states to honour their commitment of not taking sides on issues involving territorial disputes," Lu added.

"We urge the G7 member states to fully respect the efforts made by countries in the region, stop making irresponsible remarks and all irresponsible actions, and truly play a constructive role for regional peace and stability."