BEIJING - China said Thursday it would resolutely oppose any military provocation in its territorial waters, remarks which appeared to be directed at the United States, Vietnam and the Philippines.China's military has established routine naval patrols in the South China Sea, "indisputable territory" of the nation and a matter of "national sovereignty," defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said. "We will resolutely oppose any military provocations," Geng said in statements posted on his ministry's website."The determination and will of China's military to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering."Geng's remarks came as the United States launched the largest-ever "Rim of the Pacific" naval exercises in Hawaii, involving 22 nations, including the US, India, Russia, Australia and the Philippines. China was not invited to participate or observe the exercises.Tensions in the South China Sea have intensified recently with Vietnam and the Philippines both accusing China of increasingly flexing its military muscle in the region, despite a pledge from all claimants to avoid actions that could further stoke tensions. Both the Philippines and Vietnam have also sought to shore up relations with the United States to counter China's increasingly vocal assertions over the region that also includes key international shipping routes.Geng downplayed the US-sponsored multi-national military exercises, but voiced concerns over Washington's recent announcement to deploy more of its naval forces to the Pacific Ocean."Frankly speaking, we do not believe that this (the multilateral exercises) is such a big matter and it is not worth being upset about," Geng, who was speaking at a press briefing that was only open to Chinese journalists, said.But "deploying more military forces in the Asia-Pacific goes against the world's pursuit of peace, development and cooperation, as well as trust among nations in the region," he said.The Philippines said Thursday it was committed to "defuse the tension" with China over a disputed shoal, despite the continued presence of Chinese ships in the area.Meanwhile, a veteran US senator said Thursday that he expected the Senate to ratify this year the UN convention on the law of the sea, which supporters say will benefit US engagement in Asia.Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent who is active on foreign policy, said that he felt a "pressing urgency" for the United States to ratify the treaty during recent visits to US-friendly nations in Southeast Asia."I am hopeful that by the end of 2012 the US Senate will at last vote on this treaty and ratify it," Lieberman told a conference at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "In my opinion, there are more than enough votes now in the Senate to ratify the convention," he said.But Lieberman said that some senators "remain zealously opposed" and may use procedural manoeuvres to block a vote. Ratification of a treaty requires a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate.Lieberman said that the leadership of the Senate, where President Barack Obama's Democratic Party holds a slender majority, has decided to wait on a vote until after the November 6 election.The United States is one of a dwindling number of countries that have not ratified the 30-year-old pact, which defines how nations can use the ocean and sets exclusive economic zones off coastlines.The Obama administration has led a push for the Senate to ratify the treaty, arguing that it would help ensure US freedom of navigation as China rapidly expands its navy and tensions remain high in the Middle East.The United States has frequently called on China to respect freedom of navigation in the conflict-ridden South China Sea, but critics in Asia note that Beijing, unlike Washington, has ratified the UN convention.Some conservative Republicans oppose the treaty, saying that it would impinge on US sovereignty and restrict US businesses in certain cases, including access to undersea minerals.But the US military top brass and business groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, have urged ratification.