China's foreign ministry has said that it is waiting for an official statement from Japan over its plans to deploy its largest warship on a three-month tour through the disputed South China Sea.

In what is thought to be the biggest show of naval strength in the region since World War II, Japan's Izumo aircraft carrier will join the Malabar naval exercise in July in the Indian Ocean in which Indian and US vessels will also take part.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she is yet to get clarity on whether the ship will visit countries in Southeast Asia.

"We have not yet heard what Japan says officially. If it's only a normal visit, going to several countries, and passing normally through the South China Sea, then we've got no objections, and we hope this kind of normal exchange between relevant countries can play a role promoting regional peace and stability," Hua told a daily news briefing.

However, if Japan has intentions to patrol the sea, "then that's a different matter", she added.

China claims almost all of the territories in the South China Sea. Its military assertiveness has stoked tensions with regional claimants to the sea, Japan and the US. While Tokyo does not have any claims in the South China Sea, it has locked horns with Beijing over a maritime dispute in the East China Sea.

Hua hoped Japan can play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and stability.

The Izumo is an example of Japan expanding its military capability overseas. The warship, which was commissioned two years ago, was built at a cost of $1bn (£818m).

It is due back in Japan in August. Prior to that, it is expected to make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before taking part in the joint naval exercise, Reuters reported, Reuters reported.

A helicopter lands on the Izumo, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's (JMSDF) helicopter carrier
A helicopter lands on the Izumo, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's (JMSDF) aircraft carrier Reuters