Beijing on Sunday said it was “strongly dissatisfied” after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit out at China for challenging Japan’s control of disputed islands.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China is “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposes” the remarks made by Clinton at a press conference with Japanese Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington on Friday. Clinton said the US opposed “any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration” of the islands.

Clinton did not mention Beijing directly but urged the two countries to settle the dispute peacefully. Washington insists it is neutral on the territorial row, AFP reports.

“We do not want to see any action taken by anyone that could raise tensions or result in miscalculation that would undermine the peace, security and economic growth in this region,” Clinton said.

Qin called for Washington to be “careful in words, cautious in actions” and to take “realistic actions to protect the peace and stability of the region and Chinese-US relations”.

“We urge the US side to treat the issued of the Diaoyu islands with a responsible attitude,” Qin said.

China has increased maritime and air patrols near the disputed islands in the East China Sea, escalating tensions in the region. Japan said it plans to deploy an air wing near the islands after it had scrambled fighter jets to the area when a lone Chinese aircraft flew close to Japanese territorial airspace.