China on Thursday criticized planned U.S.-Japanese military drills while defending its push for talks on North Korea’s recent aggression against South Korea.

“Relying on military alliance and a show of military force cannot resolve any problems,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said when asked about the weeklong drills, scheduled to begin on Friday.

Ms. Jiang said China hoped the exercises would be “calm and restrained” and said they “should not harm the interests of third parties, including China.” The U.S. drills with Japan follow smaller exercises with South Korea this week that North Korea had warned could lead to “full-blown war” on the Korean Peninsula.

Since North Korean shells killed two soldiers and two civilians on a South Korean island 10 days ago, China has called repeatedly for an emergency meeting of envoys from six nations involved in stalled negotiations over ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

The negotiations involve North Korea, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

Ms. Jiang said Russia had “expressed support” for the six-nation meeting, but she said China was disappointed by the failure of other nations to agree to talks after the United States, Japan and South Korea all expressed doubts.

“While it seems justified for some to wield weapons, China, as host of the six-party talks, received criticism for proposing the consultations. Is that fair?” Ms. Jiang asked reporters.

She said China had proposed “informal” talks, “so there should be no difficulties” in agreeing to them.

“We hope the relevant parties will consider China’s proposal positively,” Ms. Jiang said.

China said it was concerned by North Korea’s shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, but it has declined to criticize its long-term ally directly.

About 44,000 Japanese and U.S. troops are to start Friday’s drills around Japan.

The troops are to use about 60 ships and 400 planes from the two countries’ armed forces, including the US aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which also participated in the drills with South Korea, Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported.

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