Russia and China will conduct a drill in the South China Sea

Thursday, 28 July, 2016 - 13:45

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.

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.

Background on this from Katehon:

The US is constantly pouring oil on the fire, not just through its military and intelligence-gathering operations, but rhetorically. Thus the US State Department, represented by the State Secretary and other representatives, have repeatedly stated that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the national interest of the US, a statement that is painfully reminiscent of former US president Jimmy Carter’s statement about the Persian Gulf in 1980, when he threatened to use military force if US interests were threatened.

At the same time, and with the cynicism typical of American politicians, the US is declaring that it does not need to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to defend its national interests in the South China Sea. Although according to its action plan in the region, Washington will support any lawsuits against China in the arbitration courts.

If you bear in mind that 60 per cent of world trade traffic passes through the region, as well as Washington’s continuing attempts to promote its Trans-Pacific Partnership project, then it is unlikely that the US will stop its acts of provocation and China will be left with no choice but to strengthen its security.