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Apr 28, 6:28 AM EDT

China to join exercises with rival South China Sea claimants

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BEIJING (AP) -- China said Thursday it will send a warship and special forces for a multinational exercise next month that is also expected to include troops from the Philippines and other rival claimants in the South China Sea.

The May 2-12 maritime security and counterterrorism exercise will feature the militaries of the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with those of the U.S., India and six other dialogue partners.

It will be held in Singapore and Brunei and in nearby waters of the South China Sea.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian said that China would send the missile destroyer Lanzhou, staff officers and a dozen special forces troops.

The exercise will help the militaries to "learn from each other and deepen practical cooperation in the defense and security fields," Wu told reporters at a monthly news briefing.

China claims virtually the entirety of the strategically vital South China Sea and has attempted to shore up its control by building islands on coral reefs complete with airstrips, harbors and radar stations.

Despite that, China says it wants to resolve differences between the six rival claimants through dialogue and accuses the U.S. of raising tensions by challenging the Chinese actions with what are known as freedom of navigation patrols.

Asked about calls in the U.S. for stepped-up naval activity in the South China Sea, Wu summed up China's hard line on its sovereignty claim in a new formulation claim he called the "Three No's."

"No matter how many and how frequently U.S. ships come to the South China Sea, that would not change the fact that the islands and adjacent islands are China's inherent territory, it would not stop the pace of China's growth and development and even more it would not shake the will of the People's Liberation Army in resolutely safeguarding the sovereignty and security of China," Wu said.

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