The Chinese navy's recent large-scale training in the South China Sea is "normal and routine" and does not target any third party, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.
Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, the ministry's spokesman, made the remarks in response to media inquiries about recent satellite photos taken by the United States, which show aircraft and about 40 Chinese naval vessels, including the CNS Liaoning aircraft carrier, traveling in formation in the South China Sea.
"The exercise is part of the year's planned training to improve combat capabilities. It is normal and routine and does not target any certain country or party," Ren said at a regular news conference.
He emphasized that China's defense policies are defensive in nature, and its military construction will not threaten regional and world peace.
The naval exercise came amid growing tension between China and the U.S. in bilateral relations. On March 23, China dispatched the Type 054A guided-missile frigate CNS Huangshan, and Type 056 corvette CNS Liupanshui to identify and warn off U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin after it trespassed into waters around China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
"The fact that the U.S. has continuously sent its naval ships to trespass in these waters has severely jeopardized China's sovereignty and security, and undermined basic principles in international relations as well as regional peace and stability," Ren said in a online statement on the same day.
On Thursday, Ren urged the U.S. to see the big picture of Sino-U.S. military relations and transform it into a stabilizing factor for developing overall relations between the two countries.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed tariffs on up to $60 billion of imports from China as well as harsher restrictions on Chinese investments, triggering concerns across the globe of a trade war between the world's two largest economies.
Before the proposed tariffs, Trump had also signed a controversial Taiwan-related travel bill into law, which allows reciprocal visits between Taiwan and the U.S. by officials at all levels, including visits by military officials.
China has strongly criticized the bill, saying it has increased friction in cross-Straits and Sino-U.S. relations for undermining China's sovereignty.
"We resolutely oppose any countries, including the U.S., to have any official interactions with Taiwan," Ren said on Thursday.
"Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, and the Chinese military has enough confidence and capability to protect its territorial integrity. All efforts to resist Taiwan's reunification are futile," he added.