Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has criticized the United States, Japan and Australia for making a joint statement on the South China Sea he says was only "fanning the flames" of regional tension just as countries have agreed that the situation needs to cool down.

Wang said in a statement posted Wednesday on the Chinese foreign ministry's website that the move by the three countries came at an inappropriate time and wasn't constructive.

"Now it is the time to test whether you are peacekeepers or troublemakers," said Wang, referring to the three countries.

The trilateral statement had urged China not to construct military outposts and reclaim land in the disputed waters, making a strong show of support for Southeast Asian nations that have territorial disputes with Beijing in the area.