With Donald Trump’s recent transition into the presidency behind us, he and his administration are facing their first political stare-down with economic rival and frequent Donald Trump talking point: China.

On Monday, Sean Spicer, new White House Press Secretary, made a clear statement regarding the Trump administration’s stance on China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.  When asked about China’s development and militarization of man-made islands within the waterway, Spicer did not mince words.

“I think the US is going to make sure we protect our interests there,” Spicer said. “If those islands are, in fact, in international waters and not part of China proper, yeah, we’ll make sure we defend international interests from being taken over by one country.”

His response closely echoes that of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, who drew a hard-line during his confirmation hearing when he compared China’s island building to Russia’s 2014 military annexation of Crimea – an act denounced by NATO that continues to prompt a militarization of the border between Russia and Eastern Europe.

“The island building in the South China Sea itself in many respects in my view is akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea,” he said, calling it the “taking of territory others have laid claim to.”  He went on to say that it was a lack of a “vigorous response” from the United States that “has allowed them to keep pushing the envelope on this.”

A foreign ministry spokeswoman for the Chinese government, Hua Chunying, fired back at Trump’s team in a regular press briefing on Tuesday, effectively telling America to mind its own business.

“The United States is not a party to the South China Sea dispute,” she told reporters.  “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.”

She continued, “Our actions in the South China Sea are reasonable and fair. No matter what changes happen in other countries, what they say or what they want to do, China’s resolve to protect its sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea will not change.”