China's top military officer warned Thursday that territorial disputes involving Japan could destabilize East Asia, while also stating Beijing will make no concessions to Vietnam in an ongoing conflict in the South China Sea.
Japan is involved in territorial disputes with China, South Korea and Russia, Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army of China, said at the U.S. Defense Department.
If these issues are "not properly handled it could cause instability of the region," Fang said through an interpreter at a joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart Gen. Martin Dempsey after their talks at the Pentagon.
Fang said China had agreed with Japan until recently to put aside the row regarding sovereignty over the Japan-administered Senkaku group of islets in the East China Sea. China claims the islets, calling them Diaoyu.
But the purchase by the Japanese government of a main part of the Senkakus from a private Japanese owner in 2012 "has made this region not calm as before," Fang said.
Dempsey, chairman of the department's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he discussed with Fang "differing opinions about the East China Sea."
The U.S. general said he "made note" that the United States is obliged to defend the Senkakus among other Japan-administered areas under a bilateral security treaty with Japan.
China has frequently sent its ships into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus since 2012 to press its claim to the uninhabited islets, straining bilateral ties with Japan.
Fang's reference to differences between Japan and South Korea concerned Japan's claim to the South Korea-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan. Japan and Russia are at odds on the sovereignty of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido which Tokyo has insisted should be part of Japan.
Fang blasted Vietnam for sending ships "for disruption" of oil drilling activity that China conducted in "our territorial waters" near the China-controlled Paracel Islands which are claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
"That is something that we are not able to accept" for the safety of the oil rig, Fang said.
Dempsey urged China to resolve the issue with Vietnam "through dialogue and international law."
But Fang spurned the call, saying, "We're not afraid of trouble" and "We cannot afford to lose an inch."
The Vietnamese government said Chinese ships rammed Vietnamese ships in a series of incidents that occurred earlier this month. The Chinese government denies its ships deliberately ran into the Vietnamese vessels.