BEIJING, October 14 (Reuters) - China said Wednesday it had no plans to send its military to Syria to fight with Russian forces after reports in overseas media that it was planning to do so.
Chinese media has picked up Russian and Middle Eastern news reports that China would fight alongside Russia in Syria, and that China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, could participate too.
Chinese media has also described these reports as speculative nonsense.
“As far as I know, there are no such plans,” foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing, when asked if China had or would send forces to Syria. “Recently, the Liaoning aircraft carrier went to carry out technical tests and military drills,” she added, without elaborating.
China’s Defence Ministry said it had nothing to add to Hua’s comments.
The Global Times, an influential tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial Wednesday it was “unfounded rumor” that China would interfere militarily in Syria.
“It’s not China that brought chaos to Syria, and China has no reason to rush to the frontlines and play a confrontational role,” it said.
While China generally votes with fellow permanent United Nations Security Council member Russia on the Syria issue, it has expressed concern about interference in Syria’s internal affairs and repeatedly called for a political solution.
China, a low-key diplomatic player in the Middle East despite its dependence on the region for its oil, has warned many times military action cannot end the crisis.
‘China has not militarized S China Sea’
China has not militarized the South China Sea, but certain countries, who keep flexing their muscles, must stop hyping the issue, Hua said.
The comments came after US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States military would sail and fly wherever international law allowed, including the disputed South China Sea.
The US has decided to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations inside 12 nautical mile limits that China claims around islands built on reefs in the Spratly archipelago.
“We will do that in the time and places of our choosing,” Carter said after a two-day meeting between US and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Boston.
The defense ministers expressed “strong concerns” over Beijing’s activities on disputed islands.
Vietnam slams Beijing over lighthouses
Vietnam Wednesday slammed China over its construction of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, saying the move violates Vietnam’s sovereignty and escalates tensions.
Chinese state media reported last week that a completion ceremony was held for the lighthouses on Cuateron Reef and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly islands.
The state-run Vietnam News Agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh as saying that the construction “seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty … complicates the situation and escalates tensions.”
“Vietnam resolutely rejects and strongly protests China’s actions,” Binh said.
“Once again, we affirm that Vietnam has full legal and historical evidence for its indisputable sovereignty over the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagos,” he added, using the Vietnamese terms for the Spratlys and Paracel Islands.
Xinhua says the lighthouses will help improve navigation in the area.
China has launched a massive land reclamation project on reefs in the South China Sea over the past 18 months, raising concerns in the region and in the United States.