China general defends maritime role in island disputes

Diaoyu or Senkaku islands
Image caption China says that the Diaoyu islands have been part of its territory since ancient times

A senior Chinese general has rejected criticism over his country's role in territorial disputes in the South and East China seas.

Gen Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army, insisted that China wanted peaceful development alongside its neighbours.

He insisted on China's sovereignty to the Diaoyu islands but distanced it from claims to the Okinawa group.

Meanwhile police in Vietnam arrested at least 20 anti-China protesters.

Demonstrations took place in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi as part of growing tensions over long-standing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

'Peaceful negotiations'

Gen Qi, who is also China's head of military intelligence, was speaking at a security conference in Singapore - the Shangri-La dialogue - where China's military behaviour has been questioned.

"China has never taken foreign expansion and military conquering as a state policy," the news agency AFP reported him as saying.

"We have always held that conflicts and disputes should be properly solved through dialogues, consultations and peaceful negotiations."

Image caption China did not have a policy of foreign expansion, Gen Qi said

The general insisted China could not be seen as a threat and should be judged by its actions, the BBC's defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports.

The general's comments will not satisfy China's critics, our correspondent says, but his presence at the conference was important.

In his speech, Gen Qi said recent articles by Chinese scholars claiming that Beijing may have rights to the Ryukyus, the chain of islands known in Japan as Nansei and which include Okinawa, did not represent the views of the government.

But he repeated historical claims to the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

In April, Japan warned it would respond with force if any landing attempt was made on the islands after eight Chinese government ships sailed nearby. Taiwan also lays claim to the islands.

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