China launches new military drills amid maritime disputes

China launched new military drills in the South China Sea on Tuesday, one week after an international court ruled against Beijing in a territorial dispute with Manila.

The south-eastern tip of the Chinese island province of Hainan will be closed for the drills from Tuesday to Thursday, Hainan's maritime administration said Monday, without giving details of military manoeuvres.

The move is consistent with experts' warnings that Beijing could increase its military presence in the South China Sea as a show of defiance.

The announcement came during the visit of the US Navy Chief Admiral John Richardson to the Chinese capital.

His counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, told Richardson that China "will never sacrifice our sovereignty and interests in the South China Sea," according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Wu stressed that "no matter what country or person applies pressure," China will push forward and complete the construction of islands as planned.

Richardson spoke of "frank and meaningful talks" during his first visit to China as head of the US Navy. He said his goal was to forge a relationship and keep communications open even "if we have different opinions."

Meanwhile, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Froce recently conducted a combat air patrol in the South China Sea, a military spokesperson said late Monday. 

"To effectively fulfill its mission, the air force will continue to conduct combat patrols on a regular basis in the South China Sea," said Shen Jinke, spokesman for the PLA Air Force.  

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last Tuesday upheld a complaint by the Philippines about contested islets in the South China Sea, which holds key shipping lanes and is believed to be rich in mineral and marine resources.

The court ruled that the Philippines has exclusive rights to the territories it claims in the sea, because "those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China."

The tribunal also ruled that China’s actions at Scarborough Shoal "violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone," by interfering with fishing and petroleum exploration conducted by Filipinos and constructing artificial islands.

China refused to take part in the arbitration, and rejected the verdict.

Apart from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have overlapping claims to the South China Sea.

China on Wednesday said it may declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over disputed isles in the South China Sea, a move that would further escalate tensions. 

Last update: Tue, 19/07/2016 - 11:09

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