BEIJING - Beijing will not act first to "stir up troubles" over island disputes with neighbours, China's defense minister said Tuesday at a meeting with American counterpart Chuck Hagel.
China and Japan are embroiled in a bitter row over disputed islands in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo, with the tensions raising concerns about the possibility of a clash between the Asian powers.
"We will not take the initiative to stir up troubles," General Chang Wanquan told a joint news conference in Beijing, a day after officers allowed the US Defense Secretary to tour the country's first aircraft carrier, a rare move by the normally secretive People's Liberation Army.
"China has indisputable sovereignty" over the islands in dispute with Japan, Chang said, calling territorial sovereignty a "core issue" on which "we will make no compromise".
But he added that China was ready to resolve disputes peacefully "with the countries involved".
Last November Beijing unilaterally declared an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, including the disputed islands, prompting condemnation by Washington.
Beijing requires aircraft flying through its ADIZ to identify themselves and maintain communication with Chinese authorities, but the zone is not a claim of sovereignty.
Hagel said countries have a right to ADIZs but said setting them up without consulting other governments was risky as it could lead to "misunderstandings" and "eventually get to a dangerous conflict".