The Pentagon said it was "concerned" with Chinese military exercises surrounding a controversial archipelago in the South China Sea and warned that the maneuvers would "further destabilize" the region.
China's growing military presence in the competitive waters has troubled some of its neighbors, and Washington has denied Beijing's territorial claims to much of the region, including the Paracel Islands.
"The Department of Defense is concerned about the decision by the People's Republic of China (PRC) to conduct military exercises on the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea from July 1-5," the Pentagon said in a statement on Thursday.
The activities "further destabilize the situation" in the area claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, it said.
But Beijing closed the criticism and said on Friday that the exercises were "within China's territorial sovereignty."
"Some countries outside of this region regularly travel far and wide to the South China Sea to conduct large-scale military exercises and flex their muscles," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a routine meeting.
"This is the main reason for the stability of the situation in the South China Sea."
The Paracels are a group of islands equidistant from the coast of China and Vietnam, which is used by both countries and Taiwan and is a regular source of voltage.
– & # 39; exercise restraint & # 39; –
The US also regularly conducts so-called "free navigation operations" in the South China Sea to assert itself against Beijing, with the US Navy sometimes sending warships to the Paracels. The region is believed to have valuable oil and gas reserves.
In April, a Chinese ship rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands, creating tensions between the two countries.
Vietnam said on Friday that it also sent a protest notice to China warning "not to repeat similar violations in the future."
Such exercises also violate Beijing's "commitments from the 2002 Declaration on the Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability," it said.
The statement signed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states that all parties "would avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability".
The exercises "are the latest in a long line of" Chinese actions "to make illegal maritime claims and disadvantage Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea."
The Pentagon urged "all parties to exercise restraint and no military activity in the region that could worsen disputes," and said it would continue to monitor China's military activity.
In recent years, to strengthen its territorial claims, Beijing has installed military equipment on Woody Island, the main island of the Paracels, built artificial islands in the region and promoted patriotic tourism in the archipelago.
Washington denies Beijing's territorial claim to much of the South China Sea, including the Paracels. 31 In April, China created new administrative units for the islands of Paracel and Spratly, which are now governed by the city of Sansha, which China established on the nearby island of Woody in 2012.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)