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But China does not fear trouble

China on Sunday denounced US “provocations” in the South China Sea and said it does not fear “trouble” over its territorial disputes with neighbours in the area.

“The South China Sea issue has become overheated because of the provocations of certain countries for their own selfish interests,” Admiral Sun Jianguo told a security summit in Singapore.

Sun, who stressed China’s desire for a peaceful solution, spoke one day after US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that Chinese construction on a South China Sea islet claimed by the Philippines would prompt unspecified “actions” by the United States and other nations.

On a visit to Mongolia Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry also warned Beijing against setting up an air defence identification zone over the disputed waters, saying it would be a “provocative and destabilising act.”

Rhetoric has escalated ahead of a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on a case brought by the Philippines, a longtime US ally and former colony, against China, which has shunned the proceedings and says it will not recognize any ruling.

The Chinese admiral, in a clear reference to Washington, said “freedom of navigation” patrols in the South China Sea were a display of “military muscles” and that China was being forced to “accept and honor” the tribunal’s ruling.

“China firmly opposes such behavior. We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble,” Sun said in prepared remarks.

Carter had left Singapore by the time Sun made his speech. (AFP)