China on Friday said that it is not against the India-Singapore joint naval exercises in the South China Sea as long as it doesn't "hurt" other countries' interest.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that joint naval exercises between Asian countries are not a problem for Beijing as long as they are for the benefit of regional peace.
Indian and Singaporean navies have started a seven-day mega maritime exercise in the SCS, which has been witnessing an aggressive stance by China. Reports state that four warships of the Indian Navy and long range anti-submarine warfare aircraft P-8I are participating in the SIMBEX (Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise). The naval exercises between the countries are aimed at increasing interoperability between the two navies.
"We have no problem, if such exercises and cooperation are for the benefits of regional peace and stability," Hua said at a daily briefing in Beijing. "We have a very open attitude to normal exchanges between various countries," she said when Indian media, present at the meeting, asked for China's reaction to the joint naval exercise of India and Singapore.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea (SCS), including the islands more than 800 miles from the Chinese mainland. The country's claims have been objected by neighbouring nations including Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
The South China Sea dispute involves islands and maritime claims in the region among several sovereign states. Many international non-claimant nations, particularly the United States, however, want the South China Sea to remain as international waters considering the fact that a high proportion of the world's trade passes through this region.
"We just hope that when the relevant countries conduct such exchanges and cooperation, they should bear in mind such activities should not hurt the interests of other countries or have any negative impact to regional peace and stability," Hua said outlining Beijing's sensitivities.
In December 2016, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an American think-thank, cited satellite images to back claims that China was installing a weapons system on these artificial islands. It said the system installed on the islands include anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.
India, along with the US, has voiced its support for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea region, as foreign trade worth more than a trillion dollar moves through the disputed waters. China, in the past, has opposed India participating in oil exploration in the SCS, at Vietnam's invitation.