The military exercise proceeds as tensions continue to mount over the contested waters with the Obama administration demanding that China submit to the ruling of The Hague international tribunal invalidating Beijing’s historical claim.
China and Russia will hold an eight day series of war games in the South China Sea near Guangdong province starting on Monday according to a statement by the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
The massive military exercise code-named “Joint Sea-2016” will feature destroyers, submarines, fighter jets, ship borne helicopters and marines according to the Chinese Navy’s official website. The countries will join forces in practicing defense, rescue and anti-submarine operations in addition to “island seizing” demonstrations.
Additionally marines will participate in live-fire exercises, defense and landing maneuvers in what is billed to be the single largest joint military operation between the two countries’ naval forces. The plan comes after China announced in July, before the situation in the South China Sea had fully escalated, that Beijing and Moscow planned to join forces in a “routine” naval exercise.
Joint Sea-2016 follows in the wake of increased pressure by the United States demanding that China adhere to the ruling of The Hague international tribunal invalidating Beijing’s longstanding claim to the South China Sea through which some $5 trillion of shipborne trade passes through each year and under which lies some of the world’s largest deep water oil and natural gas deposits.
China immediately denounced the ruling and vowed not to act in accordance citing both legal and procedural flaws in the administration of the case. The ruling was made after the Philippines entered unilaterally into arbitration, at the behest of the United States, with The Hague looking to the island country’s claim to the Scarborough Shoal – a few rocks in the middle of the disputed territory – in making their determination.
In recent weeks, China has signaled that they plan to reclaim the Scarborough Shoal and recommence island building operations to which Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte warned that his country was willing to engage in “bloody conflict” if Beijing didn’t back off while also signaling that he hoped to work to China to come to some sort of diplomatic agreement.
Leading American think tanks, including the notorious RAND Corporation have also begun laying out the template for a war with China even taking to the pages of major publications to openly lobby for preemptive military action against Beijing substantially raising the stakes over the disputed waters.