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China, Russia to hold drill in South China Sea: Beijing

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Chinese Navy ships pass through the Tsushima Strait to the Sea of Japan for joint drills with Russia, July 3, 2013. (File photo)

China and Russia will conduct a joint naval drill in the South China Sea in September, a senior Chinese military official says.

Yang Yujun, the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, made the announcement on Thursday, saying the exercises will be carried out in the “relevant sea and air of the South China Sea.”

He added that the joint drill is “routine” and “does not target any third party.”

The South China Sea is the subject of a territorial dispute between China and several regional countries.

Recently, a Hague-based court of arbitration ruled that China’s claim of sovereignty over disputed areas in the sea or its resources had no legal basis. The case had been filed by the Philippines, whose economic and sovereign rights, according to the court, have been violated by Beijing.

China has dismissed the ruling, saying it does not recognize the tribunal’s arbitration in the dispute.

This aerial image taken from a C-130 transport plane shows a general view of Taiping Island during a visit by journalists to the island, in the disputed South China Sea, March 23, 2016. (BY AFP)

China and Russia have increased their military training cooperation in recent years. The two countries have been holding naval drills in the Pacific waters since 2012.

The United States, too, has moved to step up its military cooperation with allies in the region.

The presence of the US in the region has upset regional powers China and Russia, which say such extra-regional presence serves to inflame tensions among countries.

In the disputes revolving around the South China Sea, the US has sided with China’s rival claimants.

Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The contested waters are rich in oil and gas.

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