China Denies Military Intentions in South China Sea Disputes

Posted October 25th, 2011 at 6:25 am (UTC-5)
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China is reaffirming its commitment to a peaceful solution to disputes in the South China Sea after a ruling party-affiliated newspaper warned that military action may be warranted.

Chinese media are also criticizing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta after he warned about China's maritime activities.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was asked Tuesday about a commentary in the Global Times newspaper, which is affiliated with the ruling Communist Party. The article said countries that continue to challenge China over the South China Sea should “prepare for the sounds of cannons.”

Jiang insisted the threat of military action reflected the views of only that one newspaper.

She said China is committed to peaceful development and cooperation with its regional neighbors.

Both Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Chinese ships of interfering with oil exploration activities in the South China Sea off their shores, where the countries's have overlapping claims. China is also involved in a diplomatic dispute with Japan over an island chain in the East China Sea.

Panetta, who is making his first visit to the region as defense secretary, referred to the disputes in an article Monday in a Japanese newspaper. He cited a “troubling” lack of transparency in China's military build-up and expressed concern over its “increasingly assertive activity” in the two seas.

China's official Xinhua news agency fired back Tuesday in an article that accused Panetta of distorting China's military activity. It said the new Pentagon chief exhibited a “sharp change in tone” from his predecessor, Robert Gates, who worked hard over the past year to improve relations between the two militaries.