Beijing - China on Wednesday expressed its latest opposition to joint drills between the United States and Republic of Korea (ROK), which Seoul-based media reported will hold the exercises in the Yellow Sea by early September.
The 97,000-ton aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrives at the southern port city of Busan on Wednesday for a fi ve-day port call. The US aircraft carrier and three destroyers arrived in the Republic of Korea ahead of a naval exercise aimed at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. [Agencies]
It was the sixth time this month for Beijing to protest the joint drills, which were delayed following Chinese opposition.
"Seoul and Washington claim they will hold several joint drills in the East and West seas in the months to come, including an anti-submarine exercise in the West Sea in early September," the Chosun Ilbo reported on Wednesday.
The Yellow Sea, which Seoul calls the West Sea, is located between the Chinese mainland and the Korean Peninsula. The ROK also calls the Sea of Japan the East Sea.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang expressed "deep concern" over the US-ROK announcement in a statement.
"We resolutely oppose any foreign military vessel and aircraft conducting activities in the Yellow Sea and China's coastal waters that undermine China's security interests. We will continue to follow closely the developments of the situation," Qin said.
The US and ROK originally set the exercises in the Yellow Sea targeted at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) for its role in the deadly sinking of ROK warship Cheonan in March. Pyongyang has vehemently denied the accusations and threatened war in response.
The move also drew a slew of protests from Beijing, with Chinese military analysts adding that the exercises have put the Chinese capital under the attacking sphere of the US aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which is involved in the drill.
The joint drills were repeatedly delayed and partially located to the Sea of Japan with the aircraft carrier.
The US and ROK announced on Tuesday that they would launch the first of their upcoming joint drills in the area on Sunday, delaying similar moves in the Yellow Sea without specifying dates.
Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military analyst, said the schedule of the Yellow Sea drills might see other changes.
"There have been several adjustments already and we still need to wait and see," he said.
Peng said that, despite the delays, it is clear that the US and the ROK are "taking advantage" of the Cheonan incident to direct their military presence closer to China.
During a visit to the ROK on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced new sanctions against Pyongyang that were targeted at the sale or procurement of arms and related goods, as well as the procurement of luxury items.
Clinton, as well as visiting US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, also visited the Demilitarized Zone separating the ROK and DPRK, a move that surprised the soldiers stationed a mere 30 feet away on the DPRK side, BBC reported.
"Washington is clearly still hoping to engage North Korea and Mrs Clinton again called on Pyongyang to change direction," BBC reported.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Wednesday also urged countries involved not to add to regional tensions.
"Standing now in the way to the Six-Party Talks is not the DPRK alone, but the US and ROK too. It doesn't matter what Washington says, its action has shown a negative attitude," Peng said.