BEIJING - China issued veiled criticism of Israel on Monday as its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, began a visit in the country, saying China opposed the use of force and urged restraint and the respect of sovereignty after Israel allegedly launched strikes in Syria.
Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah, foreign media reported.
"We oppose the use of military force and believe any country's sovereignty should be respected," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing.
"China also calls on all relevant parties to begin from the basis of protecting regional peace and stability, maintain restraint and avoid taking any actions that would escalate tensions and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability," Hua said.
Hua, who did not mention Israel by name, was speaking as Netanyahu began a five-day trip to China.
Hua, asked if China would urge Netanyahu to stop air strikes, said the Israeli leader had yet to meet Chinese leaders. Netanyahu is due to meet Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday.