BEIJING (AP) _ China expressed concern Tuesday about a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise launched amid growing tensions with North Korea.

``We're concerned about this,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said on state media. ``We hope relevant parties will do more to ease tensions on the (Korean) Peninsula and refrain from exacerbating the situation.''

The 12-day exercise, launched Monday and code-named Ulji Focus Lens, is one of the largest conducted annually by the armed forces of the United States and South Korea. The exercise comes amid fears that North Korea may test-fire a new long-range missile.

The exercise involves 14,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea and 5,400 others brought from the U.S. mainland, Japan and Guam, along with 56,000 South Korean troops.