BEIJING, June 29 (Reuters) - Recent drills by the Chinese
navy are routine and not connected to tension over the disputed
South China Sea, the country's Defence Ministry said on
Wednesday, calling for people to view the exercises in a
Harsh rhetoric and an occasional stand-off have long been
part of the jousting over the contested South China Sea. But
there are more frequent incidents and the complaints from
Southeast Asian capitals about China's actions are louder.
"What needs explaining is that a series of recent naval
drills are routine and planned annually and have no connection
with the situation at present in the South China Sea," ministry
spokesman Yang Yujun told a news conference, according to a
transcript posted on the ministry's website(www.mod.gov.cn).
"We have seen that some reports have been excessively
speculative and overly interpretative. We hope that everyone can
objectively and rationally view these normal naval exercises,"
China's growing military clout had added to regional jitters
about the country's rise. China says that it needs to upgrade
its outmoded forces and that its plans are not a threat to any
country, pointing out that its defence budget is far smaller
than that of the United States.
Still, tensions have risen sharply in the South China Sea in
recent months on concern China is becoming more assertive in its
claim to the disputed waters believed to be rich in oil and
Vietnam and the Philippines have expressed particular
concern about China's growing assertiveness in the seas,
including harassment of ships. An Australian think tanks said on
Tuesday that risks were growing that incidents at sea involving
China could lead to war in Asia.
The United States and the Philippines are scheduled to hold
maritime security exercises near the disputed waters this week.
Yang said U.S-Philippines defence cooperation "ought not to
be directed at any third party, nor damage the interests of any
"We hope that relevant countries can put regional peace and
stability at the forefront and do more to benefit regional peace
and stability," he added.
On Monday, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution that deplored
China's use of force against Vietnamese and Philippine ships in
the South China Sea.
But Yang repeated Beijing's stance that the United States
should stay out of the matter.
"The peace and stability of the South China Sea accords with
the common interests of all countries in the Asia Pacific,
including China and the United States," he added.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan
all claim territories in the sea, which covers an important
shipping route and is thought to hold untapped oil and gas
China's claim is to most of the sea's 648,000 square miles
(1.7 million square km), including the Spratly and Paracel
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)
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