China’s pursuit of offshore resources in parts of the South China Sea is “completely unlawful”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.
Mr Pompeo said he wanted to make clear that Beijing’s “campaign of bullying to control” the disputed waters was wrong.
China said that the US “deliberately distorts facts and international law”.
China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years.
Beijing claims an area known as the “nine-dash line” and has backed its claim with island-building and patrols, expanding its military presence there.