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China to hold naval drills in South China Sea

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BEIJING (PTI): Striking a combative posture amid deepening row over the South China Sea, China announced naval exercises in the Western Pacific asserting that its lawful rights including navigation should not be hindered.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) naval fleet will go for routine training in the Western Pacific in late November, the Chinese Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The annual regular training is in accordance with relevant international laws and practice, and not directed toward any particular country or goal, the statement said.

China's lawful rights, including free navigation in relevant waters, should not be hindered, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying.

South China Sea, the scene of dispute between China and number of its neighbours following Beijing's claims that entire sea belongs to it, is regarded as the arm of the Western Pacific bordering the South East Asian mainland.

Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia contested China's claims, specially a host of small islands reportedly plush with oil and gas resources.

The South China Sea dispute figured prominently in the just concluded ASEAN and East Asian Summits in Bali where China asserted that the disputes should be resolved bilaterally by parties involved and asked outside forces, especially United States to stay out of the dispute.

The exercises were announced coinciding with new Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro's visit to Beijing.

Japanese media reported several Chinese naval ships were spotted in the region.

Koichiro held talks with Wen and top foreign ministry officials on Sino-Japan relations which were bogged down in tensions in recent months following the detention of the skipper of a Chinese fishing trawler leading to a stand off between the two countries.

In his meeting with Koichiro, Wen stressed that as influential nations, China and Japan making effort to boost common development will serve the common interests of not just the two countries, but also others in the region.

"The just-concluded East Asia Summit has demonstrated a strong trend of forging solidarity, development and cooperation within the region," Wen said.

Echoing Wen's views on bilateral relations, Koichiro said China's development offers opportunities for Japan, and the steady growth of Japan-China ties serves the fundamental interests of the two nations and bears great significance to the region and the world.

The Japanese government highly values, and is committed to furthering the strategic and mutually beneficial relations with China, Xinhua quoted Koichiro as saying.

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