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China says no objection to planned U.S. carrier visit if it benefits regional stability

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has no objection to a planned visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier to Vietnam as long as such cooperation benefits regional peace and stability, the country's foreign ministry said on Friday.

The proposed visit, set for March at the central port of Danang, could bring the most U.S. forces to Vietnam since the Vietnam war ended in 1975.

The arrival of a U.S. aircraft carrier in Vietnam will be welcomed by an emerging network of countries nervously eyeing China's military rise, particularly its assertive stance and island-building activities in the strategic South China Sea.

China claims most of the busy waterway, where Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims.

Asked whether China had any concerns about the carrier's visit, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was always happy to see countries developing friendly, cooperative relations.

"As long as this kind of military exchange between Vietnam and the United States is beneficial to regional peace and stability, then, of course, we have no objection," she told a daily news briefing, without elaborating.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China's territorial claims and has been buying U.S. military hardware, such as an armed, Hamilton-class Coast Guard cutter.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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