Chinese and Russian warships, aircraft and troops begin eight days of joint maneuvers in the South China Sea on Monday, including “joint island seizing” in an area where China and the U.S. repeatedly have sparred over freedom of navigation amid multiple territorial disputes.
It will be the sixth Russia-China naval exercise since 2012, but the first to be held in the South China Sea, among the most strategically important and hotly-contested waters on the planet.
People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) spokesman Liang Yang said the wargames would include “joint island seizing,” anti-submarine operations, as well as defense and rescue missions.
Missile and artillery live-fire drills, island landing, island defense and island offense exercises would be carried out, he said.
China claims sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea, including resource-rich areas that fall within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of surrounding nations. It has alarmed those countries and the U.S., by building and militarizing artificial islands in support of its claims.
The U.S. Navy continues to carry out what it calls “freedom of navigation” patrols in those waters, to Beijing’s publicly-expressed annoyance.