Chinese foreign minister says situation in South China Sea 'stable'

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to members of the Security Council at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday that the situation in the disputed South China Sea was “relatively stable” and urged countries beyond the region to help it to stay that way rather than fuelling conflict there.

China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea. This week China’s military carried out war games there, with warships, submarines and fighter jets simulating cruise missile strikes on ships, a Chinese newspaper said.

“Some countries outside of the region are concerned about this region and we totally understand that, but I think these states need to support attempts to keep this region stable rather than just aggravating tensions or playing countries off against each other,” Wang said during a visit to Berlin.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander has warned of a possible arms race in the South China Sea which could engulf the region, as nations become increasingly tempted to use military force to settle territorial spats.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan