China will hold military drills around the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the country’s maritime safety administration has said, ahead of a decision by an international court in Beijing’s dispute with the Philippines.
China regularly holds exercises in the area, where its territorial claims overlap with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Tensions have been rising ahead of a ruling due on 12 July from the arbitration court in The Hague, Netherlands, that is hearing the dispute.
In a brief statement the Chinese said the drills would take place from 5 to 11 July and gave coordinates covering an area from the east of China’s Hainan island down to and including the Paracels.
Other ships were prohibited from entering those waters during that time, it said.
The Paracels are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
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, according to US officials.
China argues it is within its rights and claims the islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times.
About $5tn in ship-borne trade passes every year though the energy-rich, strategic waters of the South China Sea.