BEIJING - China has said US Secretary of State John Kerry did not refer to "provocative" action by Beijing in the South China Sea while holding a telephone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. "In fact, US Secretary of State Kerry made no such comments during the phone conversation," China Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told the official Xinhua news agency late on Tuesday.
Kerry's message during the phone talks was that the United States does not take sides in the South China Sea dispute, and has no intention to make any judgment on the issue of territorial sovereignty, Xinhua said.
Tensions rose last week after China moved a giant oil rig into an area also claimed by Vietnam. Each country accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
"He (Kerry) said China's introduction of an oil rig and numerous government vessels in waters disputed with Vietnam was provocative," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington, referring to the telephone call.