China rejects US criticism of military drills in South China Sea
Iran Press TV
Friday, 03 July 2020 4:17 PM
China has rejected the United States' criticism of its military exercises in the South China Sea, saying the maneuvers are within the scope of the Asian country's sovereignty.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the comment at a daily press briefing in the capital, Beijing, on Friday, after the US Defense Department expressed concern about Beijing's military exercises in the disputed South China Sea.
The Pentagon said in a statement on Thursday that "conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability."
Zhao said certain "non-regional countries" travelled a long way to conduct large-scale military activities in the South China Sea, stressing that their actions were the root cause of instability in the region.
The Chinese official did not mention any country by name, but his remarks were an obvious reference to the United States, which conducts multiple naval operations by sending its warships through the area every year.
China kicked off five-day drills near the Xisha Islands on July 1. The islands are claimed by both Vietnam and China.
Vietnam and the Philippines have also expressed concern about the Chinese drills.
Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims with China to parts of the sea, which serves as a gateway to global sea routes and through which about 3.4 trillion dollars of trade passes each year.
The United States, which sides with Beijing's rival claimants in the maritime dispute, routinely sends warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls its "right" to "freedom of navigation," ratcheting up tensions with China.
Beijing has constantly warned the US against its military activities in the sea, saying that potential close military encounters by the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could easily trigger accidents.
The exercises are taking place amid rising tensions between the United States and China over the new coronavirus pandemic.
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