ULUGAN BAY, Philippines (REUTERS) - Thousands of American and Philippine troops waded ashore on Wednesday in a mock assault to retake a small island in the South China Sea as tensions bubbled over rival claims to disputed areas rich in oil and gas.
The drill, part of annual United States (US)-Philippine war games on the western island of Palawan, comes after the Chinese military warned last week that the exercise raised the risks of armed confrontation over contested areas of the South China Sea.
China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan across the South China Sea, each searching deeper into disputed waters for energy supplies while building up their navies and military alliances.
On Wednesday, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said China was committed to dialogue and diplomacy to resolve sovereignty disputes in the region. But Mr Cui also said China did not start the current standoff.
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