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.
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
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
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.