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BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China's most popular newspapers warned on Tuesday that nations involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea should "mentally prepare for the sounds of cannons" if they remain at loggerheads with Beijing.
The Global Times is published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, but unlike that newspaper it is not a platform for official policy and tends to take a stridently nationalist tone which pleases it readers.
In a editorial published in its Chinese and English editions, the tabloid-sized Global Times accused countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines of taking advantage of China's "mild diplomatic stance" to push their own agendas.
"Currently, China's mainstream understanding is that it should first go through the general channels of negotiating with other countries to solve sea disputes. But if a situation turns ugly, some military action is necessary," it wrote.
"If these countries don't want to change their ways with China, they will need to mentally prepare for the sounds of cannons. We need to be ready for that, as it may be the only way for the disputes in the sea to be resolved."
China, Taiwan and four Southeast Asian states, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have conflicting claims over the Spratly Islands and other atolls in the South China Sea, an area believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas. It is also a rich fishing ground.
Claimants to the sea have been trying to cool tension after a series of disputes this year, including when Chinese patrol boats threatened to ram a Philippine-contracted survey ship in the Reed Bank in March.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, asked about the newspapers remarks, said that the government was committed to a peaceful policy toward the sea.
"China's media have the right to freely say what they like, but we hope that they play a constructive role and deliver a truthful message," she told a regular news briefing.
China, which says it has indisputable sovereignty over the seas to its south and islands within, has rejected international arbitration of the conflicting claims, and has proposed joint development of resources.
The Global Times said other governments had virtually ignored China's call "to put away differences and work on shared interests."
"No known method exists to solve these issues in a peaceful way," it wrote.
"The reality is that each country in the region believes it has what it takes to force China to bow down. China wants to remain calm but it is an isolated role to play. China will have to adjust itself for this reality."
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski