By Morgan Chalfant
China will conduct military drills in the South China Sea on Thursday, less than a week after a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near disputed islands claimed by Beijing in the region.
The Japan Times reported that China’s Maritime Safety Administration announced the planned day-long military exercises in a brief statement Wednesday. The country ordered non-military vessels to stay away from a designated section of the sea south of Hainan island and northwest of the disputed Paracel Islands.
China’s navy conducts military exercises in the South China Sea
The U.S. Navy on Friday sailed a warship close to the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam but occupied by China. The operation was conducted “in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident” and “demonstrated that coastal states may not unlawfully restrict the navigation rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea,” a Navy spokesman said last week.
The United States has periodically sailed warships close to disputed territories in the South China Sea in exercise of freedom of navigation, drawing ire from Beijing. The U.S. operations have abided by the rules of “innocent passage,” meaning that the warships do not sail within 12 nautical miles of disputed territories.
Some U.S. officials have accused China of “militarizing” the South China Sea by building up artificial islands and constructing air strips and reinforced hangars on some disputed features.
China lays claim to most of the South China Sea, though an international tribunal ruled in July that Beijing’s territorial claims have no legal or historical basis. China has rejected the ruling, despite efforts by the U.S. and other regional powers urging Beijing to accept it.
China periodically holds military drills in the South China Sea, including recent joint exercises with Russia in September.
China set to conduct military drills in South China Sea less than a week after U.S. patrol
By Jesse Johnson
China has announced that it will hold military exercises in the South China Sea all day Thursday, the country’s Maritime Safety Administration said in a short statement on its website.
The statement, posted to the site Wednesday, ordered nonmilitary vessels to stay away, giving the coordinates for a section of the waters just south of Hainan island and northwest of the disputed Paracel chain, which is claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan but controlled by China.
The announcement comes less than a week after a U.S. Navy warship sailed near the Paracels, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which accused Washington of intentionally stirring tensions.
The U.S. operation Friday was the fourth “freedom of navigation” challenge in the past year to what Washington says are overreaching maritime claims by Beijing in the South China Sea.
That patrol reportedly sailed near Triton Island and Woody Island, the largest in the Paracels, and home to a key military airfield. Satellite images revealed in February that China had also deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island.
China routinely holds drills in the waters, including a massive joint exercise with Russia last month. Experts, however, have pointed out that many of the announced military drills have taken place near the Paracels, which are closer to China and more firmly under its control than the hotly disputed Spratly chain more than 800 km south.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in annual trade passes. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have rival claims.
In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejected Beijing’s expansive claims to much of the strategic waters. Beijing blasted the ruling, calling it “waste paper.”