China claims it is committed to peace and stability in the South China Sea as its smaller neighbors protest Beijing's activity in the disputed waters.
Defense Minister Liang Guanglie told a regional forum in Singapore Sunday that China is not seeking dominance and is not a threat to any country.
Earlier Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Chinese embassy in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, demanding that China stay out of waters claimed by Vietnam. The rare demonstration came after Vietnamese officials said a Chinese patrol vessel last month intentionally cut a submerged cable towed by a ship operated by the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group. The survey ship was conducting seismic tests in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned the forum in Singapore Friday of the danger of a conflict in the region unless nations with conflicting claims adopt a mechanism for a peaceful solution of disputes.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim overlapping South China Sea territories, which are thought to hold untapped oil and gas reserves.
Vietnam's Foreign Affairs Ministry accused Beijing of violating Vietnam's sovereignty right to its continental shelf, while China responded that it opposes Vietnam's exploration for oil and gas in what Beijing called China's jurisdictional area.
The Philippines accused China Saturday of undermining stability of the region by sending its naval vessels to disputed waters.
The 10-nation ASEAN group has been working with China to reach an agreement on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.