China said on Tuesday it had “irrefutable” sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea after the White House vowed to defend “international territories” in the strategic waterway. White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday signaled a sharp departure from years of cautious US handling of China’s assertive pursuit of territorial claims in Asia. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing on Tuesday “the United States is not a party to the South China Sea dispute.” China’s sovereignty over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea was “irrefutable” Hua said, according to Reuters. But China was also dedicated to protecting freedom of navigation and wants talks with nations directly involved to find a peaceful solution. “We urge the United States to respect the facts, speak and act cautiously to avoid harming the peace and stability of the South China Sea,” Hua said.