September 6, 2017 / 8:46 AM / in 10 months

China brushes off Vietnam protests over South China Sea drills

HANOI (Reuters) - China on Wednesday dismissed Vietnamese condemnation of its military live-fire exercises in the disputed South China Sea, saying it was acting within its sovereign rights.

FILE PHOTO: Vietnam and Chinese flags wave in front of Tiananmen Gate for a welcoming ceremony held for Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang, in Beijing, China May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China conducted the drills around the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims, prompting Vietnam to say it would “resolutely protect” its “legitimate rights’ through peaceful means.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing that China had done nothing wrong.

“We hope the relevant side can regard the drills calmly and reasonably,” he said, without elaborating.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, controlled by Vietnam and part of the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

Tension between China and neighboring Vietnam is at its highest in three years over the disputed waters.

Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China in July under pressure from Beijing.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea as well as at its growing defense relationships with the United States, Japan and India.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie

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