China, Russia launch 1st naval drill in South China Sea

War games covering rescue, defense operations and ‘joint-island seizing missions’ held in disputed sea for first time

China, Russia launch 1st naval drill in South China Sea

World Bulletin / News Desk

China and Russia launched Monday their first joint naval exercise taking place in the disputed South China Sea.

The state-run China Daily cited navy spokesman Liang Yang as saying that the eight-day war games will cover rescue, defense and anti-submarine operations, as well as “joint-island seizing missions and other activities”.

The drill, the fifth held by the countries’ navies since 2012, will take place east of Zhanjiang, the southernmost city of coastal Guangdong province.

Submarines, naval surface ships, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters and amphibious armored equipment from both countries are due to take part in "Joint Sea-2016".

According to Liang, the annual exercises seek to “consolidate and advance the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership” while also strengthening “friendly and practical cooperation” between the countries’ militaries.

The Daily also quoted a Chinese defense ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun, as having insisted in July that the drill "does not target any third party".

Beijing claims around 90 percent of the South China Sea despite other Asian counties considering some of its waters, islands and reefs as their territory.

In July, an arbitration court in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in its petition against China’s “nine-dash line” claim on a large part of the sea -- which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

China has accused the Philippines of having “deliberately mischaracterized” disputes in the sea -- and which sees more than $5 trillion in maritime trade every year -- declaring the court's award "null and void".

The United States and its allies -- including the Philippines and Japan -- have, however, expressed alarm over China's reclamation work in the region, which includes the building of airfields, as they suspect the maritime expansion is aimed at extending its military reach.

The U.S. has been conducting "freedom of navigation" operations near disputed islands and reefs -- moves Beijing has called “provocative”.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Eylül 2016, 09:28