China Defends China Sea Exercises, Eyes US-Philippines Drill

Posted June 30th, 2011 at 2:05 am (UTC-5)
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China's military insists that a series of recent naval exercises are not related to its disputes with regional neighbors over the South China Sea.

Defense Ministry Spokesman Yang Yujun said Wednesday media reports have speculated excessively about a series of six naval exercises this month, including one in waters near China's Hainan Island bordering Vietnam. He said the drills were routine annual exercises and irrelevant to China's maritime disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines.

At the briefing, Yang also said an ongoing naval drill involving the United States and the Philippines should not be directed at any third country.

The exercise began Tuesday in the Sulu Sea, which borders the South Chine Sea near the disputed Spratly Islands.

Two U.S. guided missile destroyers are taking part in the Sulu Sea drills, which kicked off with a ceremony Tuesday on the Philippine island of Palawan. Vice Admiral Scott Van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, said at the ceremony that the exercise has nothing to do with Spratly islands dispute.

Buskirk said the United States does have an “abiding interest” in the freedom and security of the Philippines. Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario received assurances during a visit to Washington last week of America's commitment to a decades-old mutual security treaty.

The Philippines and Vietnam both have accused China of increasingly aggressive naval activities in parts of the South China Sea claimed by the two countries as parts of their exclusive economic zones. The U.S. Senate denounced the Chinese actions in a recent resolution.

Beijing's official China Daily newspaper on Thursday quoted Ma Zhengang, a former Chinese ambassador to Britain, saying U.S. intervention was contributing to rising tensions in the region.