|Chen Bingde (R), Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), meets with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2011. (Xinhua/Zhang Duo)
BEIJING, July 11 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese general said Monday that it is "inappropriate" for the United States to hold military drills in the South China Sea, as China and several countries have recently become embroiled in disputes over the region.
"We can address (the disputes) through dialogues and diplomatic measures," Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Chen Bingde said at a press briefing after holding a meeting with visiting Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen.
"China's position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear," Chen said, adding that China continues to believe that disputes over the region should be solved through negotiation.
Noting that China's main principle regarding South China Sea disputes is "shelving differences while seeking joint development," Chen stressed that "shelving differences" exists as a precondition to resolving the arguments.
Chen said although the United States has stated on many occasions that it has no intention of interfering with the disputes, it has continued to hold military drills in the region "time and again."
Navies from the United States and the Philippines recently finished an 11-day military exercise near the South China Sea. The United States and Vietnam are scheduled to hold joint naval drills in the region from July 15 to 21.
"If the United States truly wants peace and stability in the region, it should adjust the schedule of its military drills," Chen said.
However, Chen also said that he hopes the U.S. military presence in the South China Sea will help to bring stability to the region.
Chen admitted that the U.S. presence is "already a fact" and will continue to exist because of U.S. interests in the area.
"We want to know how many U.S. military forces will be deployed in this area and what they will do with their presence," Chen said.
In response to a question regarding U.S. surveillance operations in waters near the Chinese coastline, Chen said that China is a responsible country and that there is no need for the United States to conduct frequent surveillance in the region
U.S. surveillance does not help the situation, but instead creates obstacles for Sino-U.S. military cooperation, Chen said.
"We hope the United States can take our feelings into consideration and make positive contributions in the interest of bilateral cooperation," he said.
The oil- and gas-rich South China Sea is partially claimed by several southeast Asian states, including the Philippines and Vietnam. However, history shows that China has indisputable sovereignty over the sea's islands and their surrounding waters.