World Bulletin / News Desk
State news agency Xinhua quoted a spokesman for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force as saying Monday that a recent patrol would become "regular" practice.
The army "sent H-6K bombers and other aircraft including fighters, scouts and tankers to patrol islands and reefs including Huangyan Dao," it quoted Shen Jinke as saying
"During the mission, the aircraft carried out tasks including aerial scouting, air combat and island and reef patrol, fulfilling the patrol's objective."
The announcement comes after an international tribunal in The Hague ruled July 12 that Beijing's claims to areas of the resource-rich sea have no legal basis in an arbitration launched by the Philippines, whose “sovereign rights” it said China had violated.
China, which has long insisted that the court lacks jurisdiction over issues of sovereignty and maritime delimitation, declared the award "null and void".
On Monday, Xinhua quoted Shen as underlining that the Air Force aimed to promote real combat training over the sea, "improve combat abilities against various security threats and safeguard national sovereignty and security."
"To effectively fulfill its mission, the air force will continue to conduct combat patrols on a regular basis in the South China Sea."
He stated that islands in the sea have been China's territory since ancient times, and the country's rights in the area should not be infringed upon.
"The PLA Air Force will firmly defend national sovereignty, security and maritime interests, safeguard regional peace and stability, and cope with various threats and challenges," Xinhua reported him as saying.
Beijing claims sovereignty over around 90 percent of the sea, an area marked by a so-called “nine-dash line” on Chinese official maps, while the Philippines and other Asian nations have their own claims.
The South China Sea is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, believed to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits, but Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also consider some of the region’s waters, islands and reefs to be their territory.