China says it has communicated its concerns over ongoing military maneuvers by the United States and South Korea.
“We have noted the reports and have already expressed serious concern via diplomatic channels to the relevant sides,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday, referring to reports of the joint drills.
“Maintaining the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia accords with the interests of all sides and is all parties’ responsibility,” he added.
The annual war games began on Wednesday and will continue into April. They are meant to send a message to nuclear-powered North Korea, which has been developing missile and nuclear programs.
Pyongyang has also condemned the drills and warned of nuclear counteraction if it is attacked by the US and South Korea.
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Geng, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, also repeated China’s opposition to the deployment in South Korea of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system. China deems the system, to be installed by the end of the year, a threat to its security.
Russia, too, is concerned that the deployment would further destabilize the already-restive Peninsula. On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China and Russia had agreed to step up their coordinated efforts in opposition to the planned deployment.
Meanwhile, James Kilby, a US rear admiral, said while on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the disputed South China Sea that the United States will continue to patrol the waters “to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight.”
“We have operated here in the past, we’re going to operate here in the future, we’re going to continue to reassure our allies,” he said.
China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have territorial claims in the waters.