Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrol at Fiery Cross Reef, in the Spratly Islands, known in China as the Nansha Islands, February 9, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Stringer/File Photo
China and Russia will hold “routine” naval drills in the South China Sea (Vietnam’s East Sea) in September.
China’s defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a news conference on Thursday.
The drills come at a time of heightened tension in the contested waters after an arbitration court in the Hague ruled this month that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea and criticised its environmental destruction there. China rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the case.
On July 8, the Chinese navy also conducted combat drills near its southern island province of Hainan and the Paracel islands in the South China Sea.
The drills came ahead of the July 12 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on a case brought by the Philippines disputing several of China’s territory claims in the South China Sea.
Ships from China’s northern, eastern and southern fleets participated in Friday’s drills, which focused on air control, surface operations and anti-submarine warfare, among other training exercises, the ministry said in a website statement.
China claims nearly all the South China Sea, but its claims overlap in part with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China has repeatedly said it does not consider any decision reached by the arbitration court to be legally binding.
“China adheres to the position of settling disputes through negotiation and consultation with states directly concerned,” state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Saturday.
“This has always been China’s policy, and it will never change.”