A Chinese defense official is criticizing the United States for taking an interest in a South China Sea dispute for the second time this week.
Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said Friday that remarks last week by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were an unwelcome attempt at the "internationalization" of a territorial issue involving the Spratly and Paracel chains. China's foreign ministry made similar remarks earlier this week.
Chinese news media, meanwhile, reported that a large-scale military exercise conducted this week near the disputed islands was the largest since the founding of the Peoples' Liberation Army.
Chinese authorities were outraged last week when Clinton said the United States has a national interest in maintaining free navigation through the waterway.
Geng said China will push for resolution of the issue with "relevant countries," but said China has "indisputable sovereignty" over the islands. Parts or all of the two chains - which are believed to have oil and gas deposits - are also claimed by Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
The PLA newspaper and website said the South China Sea training maneuvers were carried out on Monday employing warships, submarines and combat aircraft.
The exercise was supervised by General Staff Chief Chen Bingde, who told his forces to be alert for changes in their mission and to make "solid preparation for military struggle."
China was already on edge because of a similar exercise conducted this week by U.S. and South Korean forces off Korea's eastern coast.
That exercise was intended as a warning to North Korea, which has been blamed for the sinking of a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea in March. Further exercises are planned for the Yellow Sea, where China has vital ports and shipping lanes.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.