China accused the US on Monday of "hyping up" recent military flights around a Chinese island in the South China Sea, claiming Washington's motivation was questionable and urged countries concerned to show "restraint" over the territorial issue.
Observers said the US is apparently using the timing to expand military deployment in the area.
Washington's comments came ahead of a ruling by an international arbitration body in a process launched unilaterally by the Philippines against China's territorial claim in the South China Sea.
Asked about a South China Morning Post report on Monday that said China will start constructing an outpost on Huangyan Island this year, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had not heard of the case. "However, I saw media reports that military planes from the US and the Philippines flew over the sea around Huangyan Island," Hua said. She said China has always respected the right to normal and legal flights.