Philippines says China carrier's mission 'raises tension'

MANILA - The Philippines Wednesday criticised China's dispatch of its first aircraft carrier to the South China Sea, saying it "raises tension" in waters where the two Asian neighbours are locked in a territorial dispute.

"Its deployment does not contribute to collective efforts to strengthen regional stability and instead serves to strengthen the status quo," foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement.

"Its deployment raises tension," he said, adding it was contrary to efforts by governments in the region to craft a "Code of Conduct" in the South China Sea.

The newly-commissioned Liaoning left its home port of Qingdao on Tuesday on a training mission to the South China Sea, accompanied by two missile destroyers and two missile frigates, the official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.

The deployment comes amid heightened tensions between China and its neighbours over disputed waters, with Beijing declaring air defence rights over islands controlled by Japan at the weekend, provoking a furious international reaction.

Beijing took effective control of Scarborough shoal, claimed by Manila and just 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the Philippines, last year.

China keeps up nearly daily pressure in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety and where Vietnam and others have competing claims to some of the islets.