China and Russia to hold joint naval drills in South China Sea

China and Russia will hold a joint naval drill in the disputed South China Sea in September, Chinese Defence Ministry announced today, days after an international tribunal struck down Beijing's expansive claims over the strategic waters.

Navies of China and Russia will hold a joint drill in South China Sea in September, Yang Yujun of spokesperson Defence Ministry said here.

The drill, codenamed Joint Sea-2016, is a product of the consensus reached by the two sides, Yang said.

Though the navies of the two countries have been holding annual exercises, this year's exercises come in the backdrop of a tribunal appointed by the Permanent court of Arbitration struck down China's claims all most all over the South China Sea and upheld the Philippines rights over the area.

Besides the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan opposed China's claims. US which extends tacit backing to them to assert their claims against China has been sending naval ships and military aircraft to maintain freedom of navigation in the disputed area.

Washington called on Beijing to implement the tribunal verdict saying that it is binding. China has rejected the tribunal verdict but expressed willingness to resolve the dispute directly through the parties concerned.

Held on both land and sea, the drill is a routine one between China and Russia, and does not target any third party, Yang said.

The drill will consolidate and develop the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the two militaries, and enhance the capabilities of the two navies to jointly deal with maritime security threats, Yang said.

Last year China and Russia held joint military drills in the Sea of Japan and the Mediterranean.

Beijing announced the drills days after it successfully manoeuvred a statement in the just concluded ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting at Lao's capital Vientiane mentioning a word about the South China Sea arbitration.

"Although the South China Sea issue was mentioned many times in the communique, it only gave a general overview of principles that must be stuck to. Most foreign media view the communique as a triumph for China's diplomacy", state-run Global Times said in an editorial.

Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are prominent members of ASEAN, (Association of South East Asian Nations).

Asked whether China would use three airstrips it build on the disputed islands in the South China Sea would use for military purposes, Yang said priority would be given to the civilian usage.

But at the same time he said a military aircraft has landed in one of the islands recently to airlift an injured person for medical treatment in the mainland.

Source: Deccan Herald

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