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China expresses concern about U.S.-South Korea drill

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry on Friday said it had expressed concern about a large-scale joint military exercise between South Korean and U.S. troops that began this week.

The exercise, called Foal Eagle, comes amid heightened tension following the latest test launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea on Feb. 12. Previous such exercises have prompted threats by Pyongyang to launch military action in retaliation.

"We have noted the reports and have already expressed serious concern via diplomatic channels to the relevant sides," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

"Maintaining the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia accords with the interests of all sides and is all parties' responsibility," he added.

"At present the situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complex and sensitive. The relevant side should earnestly do more to help allay the situation on the Korean Peninsula and peace and stability in Northeast Asia, not the opposite."

Geng also repeated China's opposition to the deployment in South Korea of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

South Korea has said it and the United States aim to make the system operational by the end of the year. The two countries decided last year to deploy the system in response to the North Korean missile threat.

China says the system, with its long-range radar, is a threat to China's own security and will do nothing to help resolve tensions with North Korea.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

 

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