KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - China's actions in the South China Sea are primarily for humanitarian and navigational benefit to other countries but China will defend its sovereign territory, the Chinese defense minister told his U.S. counterpart on Tuesday, senior U.S. defense officials said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan met for forty minutes in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and discussed cyber hacking and China's building of artificial islands in the South Chija Sea, the officials said. It was the first meeting of the two men as heads of their countries' defense establishments.
Chang told Carter that China's activities in the body of water are primarily meant to help other countries.
"'But that said, we need to do things that help us defend our sovereign territory and I need to be very clear to you that there is a bottom line to this,'" a senior U.S. Defense official said, recounting Chang's comments.
Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan