China launched naval drills near Paracel Islands in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Vietnam) on Monday, the third of its kind in the area so far this year.
|China's exercise in waters near Hainan and the Paracel Islands in 2016. Photo: AP|
Two exercises are being conducted in the South China Sea, simultaneously along those in different parts like the East China Sea and the Bohai Sea along the Chinese coast.
On Saturday, China’s Maritime Safety Administration issued two notices announcing two no-go zones in which all ships are prohibited from entering the area near Paracel Islands from 7am to 3pm.
The duration of the drills is not specified.
The Paracel Islands, known as Hoang Sa Islands in Vietnamese, were seized by China in a bloody battle in 1974. Vietnam has strongly protested Chinese activities in Hoang Sa, saying the moves violated Vietnamese sovereignty.
China's latest military exercises in the South China Sea took place in early July 2020.
In response to Beijing’s move, Vietnam, the US, and the Philippines voiced protest against China’s military exercises, calling the activities “highly provocative.”
The Vietnamese foreign ministry has met with the Chinese diplomatic mission in Hanoi to protest China’s drills in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and stated that the drills were “not conducive" to Beijing’s relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said China’s exercises were “highly provocative,” Reuters reported. “That is very concerning, we view that with alarm.”
Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense showed its concerns about the Chinese move. “Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability.”
China holds military drills periodically, but rarely do multiple exercises happen at the same time, according to Reuters.