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China, Russia to Conduct Join Military Drills in South China Sea

Beijing will also deploy anti-missile defense tests to counter U.S. system in South Korea

China's Harbin (112) guided missile destroyer takes part in a week-long China-Russia "Joint Sea-2014" navy exercise at the East China Sea off Shanghai, China May 24, 2014 / AP
• July 28, 2016 12:32 pm

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The Chinese Defense Ministry announced Thursday that China and Russia will conduct joint naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea in September despite a recent international tribunal ruling that rejected Beijing’s claims to the strategic waterway.

Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Yang Yujun called the drills "routine" at a news conference and vowed they were not directed at any countries.

The planned exercises will be the first joint drills in the South China Sea between China and Russia. The two nations, who were once communist rivals, have forged a partnership aimed at countering pressure from the U.S. and its allies over their military activities.

"This is a routine exercise between the two armed forces, aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership," Yang said. "The exercise is not directed against third parties."

The joint drills will also be the first scheduled in the South China Sea since the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 12 ruling in The Hague, Netherlands, that nullified China’s territorial and maritime claims to virtually the entire waterway. The case was brought by the Philippines over China’s claims and dealt a huge blow to Beijing.

China has refused to abide by what it considers an invalid and illegitimate ruling.

Moscow and Beijing, both of which signed a massive natural gas deal in 2014 as part of a growing energy partnership, held joint naval exercises in the East China Sea for the first time in 2014, and conducted their first ever drills in European waters in May 2015. Later that year, both countries carried out exercises in the Sea of Japan.

China’s Defense Ministry also confirmed Thursday that it would move forward with anti-missile system tests in response to South Korea’s decision to employ an advanced U.S. anti-missile system.

The U.S. and South Korea announced last month that the two countries would deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense unit, known as the THAAD system. China cautioned the system would destabilize security in the region.

"To develop suitable capabilities for missile defense is necessary for China to maintain its national security," Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said. "It will improve the self-defense capability of China and is not targeting any specific country and will not affect international strategic stability."

Published under: China, Missile Defense, Russia, South Korea