China holds combat drill in the 'South China Sea'

By Reuters/Nathaniel Taplin   July 8, 2016 | 07:39 pm PT
China holds combat drill in the 'South China Sea'
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea June 13, 2014. Photo by Reuters/Nguyen Minh/File Photo
The drills come ahead of the July 12 ruling in The Hague.

The Chinese navy conducted combat drills near its southern island province of Hainan and the Paracel islands in the South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea), the Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.

The drills come ahead of a July 12 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on a case brought by the Philippines disputing several of China's territory claims in the South China Sea.

Ships from China's northern, eastern and southern fleets participated in Friday's drills, which focused on air control, surface operations and anti-submarine warfare, among other training exercises, the ministry said in a website statement.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, but its claims overlap in part with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

China has repeatedly said it does not consider any decision reached by the arbitration court to be legally binding.

"China adheres to the position of settling disputes through negotiation and consultation with states directly concerned," state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Saturday.

"This has always been China's policy, and it will never change."

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> Beijing will not 'step back' in 'South China Sea'

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