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In Pentagon, China's army chief vows to defend oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, May 15 (Yonhap) -- Undaunted by Vietnam's strong protest and U.S. criticism, China's top military officer said Thursday his country would keep operating an oil rig in waters near Vietnam.

Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, also accused Japan and some other nations of exploiting Washington's Asia-Pacific rebalance policy to promote their territorial claims in the South China Sea or the East China Sea.

Fang delivered the stern message during a Pentagon press conference following talks with his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

"What we are going to do is to make sure the safety of the oil rig and ensure the operation keep going on," he said. "I think the external world should view this issue in an objective and fair manner."

China recently deployed a vast oil rig in a South China Sea area also claimed by Vietnam. It has elevated military tensions between the two sides and triggered widespread anti-China protest in Vietnam.

The U.S. has criticized China for taking a "provocative" step, while reiterating it does not take sides in the territorial dispute itself.

Fang argued there is no problem for China do the drilling activity within its own territory.

"We will make sure that this well be successfully drilled and not be interfered or disrupted by external factors," he said, with Dempsey standing next to him.

Dempsey did not talk in detail about the issue.

"We talked about the fact that we have to acknowledge that there are disputes -- territorial disputes that are in play here. We spoke about the fact that the use of military assets to resolve disputes is provocative and it does increase risk," he just said.

Meanwhile, Fang and Dempsey agreed that North Korea is one of the biggest security threats to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Chinese official called for the resumption of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

"We're trying very hard to prevent any war or conflicts within the Korean Peninsula," he said. "And we propose that related parties sit down to actively resume the six-party talks."

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