China’s ministry of national defense has confirmed that its navy will hold training exercises around disputed islands ahead of an upcoming ruling by an international court in The Hague over the South China Sea.
The China Daily reported Wednesday that a release from the ministry said fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and other equipment would participate in the drills planned for ” the first 10-day period of July”.
It did not reveal the dates of the exercises, but said they would take place between China’s southernmost Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands — which Beijing calls the Xisha islands.
“The training activity was a routine arrangement made in accordance with the annual training plan of the Navy, and it aims at promoting the capability of the troops tackling security threats and fulfilling missions and tasks,” the ministry insisted.
The Paracels are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, and are one of two archipelagos — including the Spratly Islands — surrounded by waters believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.
On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is due to rule in a case filed against China by the Philippines, which has contesting claims in the Spratlys and other parts of the Sea that Manila has named the West Philippine Sea.
China has insisted that the Hague court lacks jurisdiction over the case as it involves sovereignty and maritime delimitation — issues which Beijing says are not subject to third-party arbitration.
China considers around 90 percent of the Sea — one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes — its territory, but Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.
All claimants — bar Brunei — have stationed military troops in their territories in the vast area, said to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits.