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/ Source: Reuters

China has complained about “provocative behavior” after a U.S. spy plane flew over parts of the disputed South China Sea last week.

"We urge the U.S. to correct its error, remain rational and stop all irresponsible words and deeds," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

"Freedom of navigation and overflight by no means mean that foreign countries' warships and military aircraft can ignore the legitimate rights of other countries as well as the safety of aviation and navigation," she added.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.Reuters

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, but The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping stakes.

Friction in the region has grown over China's land reclamation in the Spratly islands. The U.S. has routinely called on all claimants to halt reclamation but accuses China of carrying out work on a scale that far outstrips any other country.

Washington has also vowed to keep up air and sea patrols in the South China Sea amid concerns among security experts that China might impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratlys once it completes work on its seven artificial islands.

China has said it has every right to set up an Air Defence Identification Zone in the South China Sea but that current conditions did not warrant one.

Last week said it was "strongly dissatisfied" after the U.S. spy plane flew over areas near the reefs, with both sides accusing each other of stoking instability.

IN-DEPTH

- Reuters