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China, Russia to begin joint drills in South China Sea on Monday

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)
This photo, taken on May 5, 2016, shows vessels from China’s South Sea Fleet taking part in a drill in Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. (By AFP)

China and Russia will commence eight-day naval drills in the disputed South China Sea on Monday, Beijing has announced.

In a statement released on Sunday, the Chinese navy said the “Joint Sea-2016” exercises, which are to be conducted in an area off China’s southeastern province of Guangdong, will feature ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft and ship-borne helicopters.

The two countries will carry out defense, rescue, and anti-submarine operations, as well as “island seizing” and other activities, the statement added.

Describing the exercises as “the largest operation ever” conducted jointly by the two countries, the Chinese Navy further stressed that the forces will participate in live-fire drills, island defense and landing operations.

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

In July, 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 was filed by the Philippines, whose economic and sovereign rights, the court said, had been violated by Beijing.

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

This file photo shows Chinese and Russian naval vessels participating in joint exercises in the East China Sea, May 24, 2014. (By Reuters)

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.

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 its allies in the region, who are China’s rival claimants in the territorial dispute.

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.

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