BEIJING, May 23 (Reuters) - China warned Japan on Friday to stay out of a dispute with its neighbours over the South China Sea, a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concern about regional tensions that he said were stoked by China’s “unilateral drilling”.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. It also has a separate maritime dispute with Japan over islands in the East Sea.
“The relevant Japanese statement neglects reality and confuses the facts, and takes a political motive to interfere with the situation in the South China Sea for a secret purpose,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.
“We require the Japanese side to consistently take realistic actions to protect the region’s peace and stability.”
Tensions in the South China Sea flared this month when China moved a giant oil rig into an area also claimed by Vietnam. The Philippines, United States and Vietnam denounced China’s actions.
Abe’s remarks were in line with comments made by Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who earlier this month expressed concerns about China’s unilateral drilling boosting regional tensions. (Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in BEIJING and Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)