Sunday, July 3, 2016

China Holding Military Exercises in South China Sea

China’s military plans exercises in the disputed South China Sea this week, adding to tensions ahead of an international tribunal’s ruling that is expected to challenge Beijing’s maritime claims in the area.

The drills, announced in a brief online statement Sunday, are scheduled to stretch over seven days starting Tuesday and ending July 11, the day before the United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague is expected to issue its ruling. China’s Maritime Safety Administration, in announcing the exercises, gave geographic coordinates for the drills in an area running east of China’s Hainan Island down to and including the Paracel Islands.
“Entering prohibited,” it said in English. The Paracels are controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam
China’s claims overlap with those of Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, as well as those of Vietnam and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally.

One possible Chinese response to the Hauge ruling would be to declare an air-defense identification zone in the area, like the one Beijing established over the East China Sea in 2013, which requires all foreign aircraft to identify themselves before entering. Last month, the U.S. sent two aircraft carriers to take part in joint naval drills with India and Japan in the Philippine Sea. One of them, the USS Ronald Reagan, and its strike group then moved into the South China Sea.