Beijing cautions White House to tread carefully after after Rex Tillerson likens island-building to Russias taking of Crimea

China has warned the US to speak and act cautiously after the White House said it would act to foil Chinese attempts to take over the South China Sea, amid growing clues that Donald Trumps administration intends to challenge Beijing over the strategic waterway.

At a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, the ministry of foreign affairs representative, Hua Chunying, advised Washington to tread carefully to avoid harming the peace and stability of the South China Sea.

Hua was responding to comments made by White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, the previous day.

Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Spicer vowed the US would make sure that we protect our own interest in the resource-rich trade route, through which $4.5 tn( 3.4 tn) in trade pass each year.

His remarks came less than a fortnight after Rex Tillerson, Trumps nominee for secretary of state, set the stage for a potentially explosive clash with Beijing by likening its artificial island constructing campaign in the South China Sea to Russias taking of Crimea.

Tillerson told his confirmation hearing the White House needed to send China a clear signal that such activities had to stop and that its access to such provinces was not going to be allowed.

They are taking territory or control or declaring control of provinces that are not rightfully Chinas, Tillerson said.

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