China said on Wednesday that it had never posed a threat to Europe as it responded to a proposal by French President Emmanuel Macron for a "European army" to defend the bloc against China, Russia, and even the US.
"We have never posed any threat to Europe," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, when asked about the issue at a daily press briefing in Beijing.
Hua said that while "Europe has the right to decide its own foreign and defence policies", European leaders have in fact expressed a desire for closer cooperation with China.
Macron touched off a controversy last week with his proposal, which is a touchy issue among European countries keen to handle their own defence, and in light of US President Donald Trump's calls for Europe to foot more of the bill for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defence alliance.
Trump called Macron's idea "very insulting", tweeting that Europe should "first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidises greatly".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, seconded Macron's proposal.
During a European parliament session, she emphasised the need for Europe to bolster its self-defence capabilities, and said that a European army could run parallel to NATO.
"Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community," she said.