China has denied reports that its military forces are preparing for war in response to a standoff with the Philippines over a disputed territory in the South China Sea, underscoring rising concerns over the month-long confrontation, The Wall Street Journal reported. “Reports that the Guangzhou Military Region, the South Sea Fleet and other units entered a state of combat readiness are not true,” China’s Defense Ministry said in a brief statement. The defense ministry statement comes after rumors on Chinese websites that the Chinese navy is preparing for action over the disputed Scarborough Shoal. The standoff began last month when the Philippines attempted to detain Chinese fishermen at Scarborough Shoal. “China is going to be even more assertive on these issues because the leadership can’t afford to be seen as weak with its own domestic constituency,” said Alan Dupont, a regional security expert at the University of New South Wales.