China’s top military officer said on Monday the timing of US naval exercises in the South China Sea was ‘inappropriate,’ after talks with his American counterpart aimed at cooling the territorial dispute.
General Chen Bingde urged the United States to be ‘more modest and prudent in words and deeds’, amid growing tensions over China’s claims in the strategic and potentially resource-rich region.
He also criticised Washington over its military spending and accused the US of ‘placing too much pressure on taxpayers’ in the wake of the global economic crisis, in unusually provocative remarks before a foreign visitor.
‘On various occasions, the US side has expressed that it does not have the intention to intervene in the disputes in the South China Sea,’ General Chen told reporters after meeting Admiral Mike Mullen in Beijing. ‘However, we are observing the latest joint exercises between the US and other countries, for example the Philippines and Vietnam.
‘We acknowledge that those exercises were there in the past, however the timing of these joint exercises is inappropriate as we see it.’ The Philippines recently finished 11 days of naval drills with the US Navy close to the South China Sea, although both sides emphasised the event is held annually and aimed at deepening defence ties.
Admiral Mullen is the first chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit China since 2007 and his trip comes as military ties between the two powers are tested by Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.