July 16, 2010 11:03
China on Thursday again said it does not want to see South Korea and the U.S. stage a massive joint exercise in waters off its western coast. The two allies had planned the exercise in response to North Korea's sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in March.
Asked about the matter in a press briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, "Our position is consistent and clear. China resolutely opposes foreign warships and fighter jets entering, and flying over, the Yellow [West] Sea and adjacent waters and engaging in activities that affect China's security interest."
He added the familiar refrain that countries concerned should not engage in activities that heighten tension in Northeast Asia but stay calm and exercise restraint.
Qin's remarks reflect China's worries that the drills could prolong tensions caused by North Korea's attack on the Cheonan, which China wants to put an end as soon as possible, diplomats in Beijing speculate.
When a reporter said a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier will now participate in the joint drill in the East Sea rather than the West Sea to accommodate China, Qin said China has already clarified its principled position several times and expressed "deep worries." He added Beijing will watch developments "closely."
He gave no answer when asked why China did not publicly oppose the USS George Washington's participation in a military exercise in the West Sea last October.
The state-run media seemed pleased with the effect of Chinese protests, with one daily quoting U.S. Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell as saying the Chinese "are a regional power... obviously whose opinion we respect and consider."
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