September 6, 2017 / 9:30 AM / 18 days ago

China brushes off Vietnam protests over South China Sea drills

HANOI (Reuters) - China on Wednesday dismissed Vietnamese condemnation of its military live-fire exercises in the disputed South China Sea, saying it was acting within its sovereign rights.

China conducted the drills around the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims, prompting Vietnam to say it would ”resolutely protect“ its ”legitimate rights’ through peaceful means.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing that China had done nothing wrong.

“We hope the relevant side can regard the drills calmly and reasonably,” he said, without elaborating.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

Tension between China and neighbouring Vietnam is at itshighest in three years over the disputed waters.

Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China in July under pressure from Beijing.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea as well as at its growing defence relationships with the United States, Japan and India.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie

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