Russia and China will hold joint naval exercises in the South China Sea as tensions rise over China’s claims over the area. A UN tribunal recently rejected Beijing’s claim over the South China Sea which both angered the Chinese government and caused them to issue an official response rejecting the tribunal’s ruling. Chinese officials stated they will continue to militarize the area and refused to participate in the trial. The Chinese government claims that the joint operations with Russia are “routine” and that the drills are meant to strengthen co-operation between the two nations without targeting any other country specifically.
China’s defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued an official statement to the media:
“This is a routine exercise between the two armed forces, aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership. The exercise is not directed against third parties.”
The two nations have a history of holding joint-military exercises. In 2014 they held joint naval exercises in in the East China sea for the first time. They followed these exercises up with additional drills in May of 2015. These drills took place in the mediterranean and the black sea, marking the first time joint exercises were carried out by China and Russia in European waters.
Russia has been a strong backer of China’s claims over the waters. Yajun claims that the Chinese and Russians have held many joint-exercises throughout the years and accuses the U.S. of ” stoking tension in the region.” However, Yajun has made similar erroneous claims in the past about Untied States military vessels “stirring the pot” when in reality they were conducting regular passes through unclaimed waters to assert freedom of navigation for all countries in the South China Sea.
Several Chinese officials have stated the country will continue to assert its claims over the contested waters despite the tribunals ruling and the face that Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have overlapping claims.