China launches naval war games

China's navy will on Tuesday begin annual military exercises off its east coast, state media reported, amid tensions over maritime territorial disputes with its neighbours.

"According to our annual plan for exercises, the Chinese People's Liberation Army's navy will in the coming days hold exercise activities in the waters near the Zhoushan islands," the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The ministry provided no other details on the war games.

But the China Daily said the live fire naval exercises would start on Tuesday and last for six days.

The Zhoushan islands lie in the East China Sea not far from the coastal city of Shanghai. The China Daily said the exercises would not be held in any waters also claimed by another country.

Last week, the ministry announced a ban on shipping and fishing vessels entering the designated exercise area, the paper said.

The exercises come after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Saturday that Japan was considering buying a chain of islands at the centre of its bitter territorial dispute with China and Taiwan.

Those islands in the East China Sea are called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, and are further to the east than the area where the imminent naval exercises are being planned.

China reacted angrily to Noda's remarks, as both governments reiterated their claims over the islands.

China is locked in similarly tense disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines in the neighbouring South China Sea.

Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of increasingly aggressive behaviour in the area.

China claims essentially all of the South China Sea, home to vital shipping lanes and believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits. Taiwan and Brunei and Malaysia also have claims in the waters.

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