South China Sea: Russia backs China, to hold joint naval drills in disputed waters

Beijing: 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.