China to hold drills near disputed islands as court due to decide on territorial row
The Chinese military is set to hold exercises near disputed islands in the South China Sea amid tensions with the Philippines that has filed a complaint at an international court.
China said it will start the drills around the disputed Paracel Islands on July 5 and will continue them until July 11. The exercises will cover an area from the east of China’s Hainan Island down to the Paracels.
Other ships are prohibited from entering the waters during the drills, Beijing said. The Paracels are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
The United States claims that China has built a runway on Woody Island, the site of the largest Chinese presence on the Paracels, and placed surface-to-air missiles there.
China routinely carries out military exercises in the South China Sea which is partly claimed by a number of countries.
Regional tensions are slightly rising as an arbitration court in The Hague is due to announce a ruling on July 12 in a dispute between China and the Philippines.
China has already announced that it will not recognize any potential verdict, saying the territories have been Chinese since ancient times. Beijing has also refrained from attending any of the little-known court’s hearings.
On Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country will never compromise on its sovereignty in the South China Sea.
“No foreign country… should expect us to swallow the bitter pill of harm to our national sovereignty, security or development interests,” Xi told ranks of top officials during the ruling Communist Party’s 95th anniversary.
China has long-standing disputes over maritime territory in the South China Sea with other regional states such as Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Washington has sided with China’s rivals in the territorial dispute, with Beijing accusing the US of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.