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NORTH KOREA

Chinese navy to hold live-ammunition drills in Yellow Sea following US-SKorean joint exercises

BEIJING (AP) — China said Sunday its navy will stage live-ammunition drills in the Yellow Sea this week, after it condemned U.S.-South Korean joint naval exercises in the region and vowed to respond in kind.

Beijing has said last month's U.S.-South Korea joint naval drills risked heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula and ignored China's objections to any foreign military exercises off its coast.

The Beihai Fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy will conduct exercises from Wednesday to Saturday in the sea off the southeast coast of Qingdao city, where the fleet is headquartered, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the defense ministry.

The drills are routine, annual training mostly involving the shooting of shipboard artillery, Xinhua said. Calls to the ministry's offices rang unanswered Sunday.

The United States and South Korea have planned additional joint maneuvers in the Yellow Sea early next month, although no dates have been announced. Last month's drills were held in the East Sea, the waters off the Korean peninsula's east coast.

The series of joint U.S.-South Korean exercises were planned as a show of force aimed at rebuking North Korea after an international investigation found that it had torpedoed a South Korean ship in March, killing 46 sailors on board. North Korea has denied the allegation and China has not joined the international condemnation of the North.

The U.S.-South Korean drills have been a source of friction in what has been a difficult year for relations between the Chinese and U.S. militaries. Although the Yellow Sea consists mostly of international waters, China regards it as lying within its vaguely defined security perimeter.

The military's newspaper, People's Liberation Army Daily, said in an editorial condemning the upcoming exercises signed by Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, a frequent outspoken commentator on military matters, "If no one harms me, I harm no one, but if someone harms me, I must harm them."

China has recently given an unusual degree of publicity to a series of military drills and live-firing exercises along its eastern coastline — seen by some as a direct response to the U.S.-South Korean exercises.

Earlier this month, China lashed out at a Pentagon report accusing its military of excessive secrecy and warned the report could further damage ties between their armed forces.

China was also upset by statements last month by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton seen as unwelcome interference in the territorial dispute between China and Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea, which China claims in its entirety, along with the myriad tiny islands lying within it.

In January, Beijing suspended contacts with the U.S. military as retaliation for a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, the self-governing island China claims as its own territory.