President Hu says China should become 'maritime power'
BEIJING (AFP) - President Hu Jintao said China should become a "maritime power" as he opened a Communist Party congress on Thursday against a backdrop of simmering territorial disputes with its neighbours.
"We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power," Mr Hu said in his speech to more than 2,200 delegates to the congress in Beijing.
Mr Hu's comments were likely to feed alarm among China's neighbours, some of whom have watched warily as Beijing builds up its military and has become embroiled in offshore territorial spats.
A dispute with Tokyo over a Japanese-controlled group of islands over which they both claim sovereignty has chilled relations between the two Asian powers, while tensions with the Philippines and Vietnam have flared in the South China Sea.