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China Holding Military Exercises in South China Sea

In this file photo, a Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.

In this file photo, a Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.

China held a military exercise in the South China Sea this week and will hold another on Saturday. One of the exercises on Tuesday was said to have involved more than 100 ships, including some with nuclear devices.

Chinese state media reported that many ships took part in the “live-fire” exercises on Tuesday. They reported that many aircraft and “several missile launch battalions” with an “unknown number of information-warfare troops” also took part.

China’s defense ministry began warning shipping companies and countries in the area about the military exercises 10 days ago. It said the training would take place southeast of Hainan Island, close to the Paracel Islands -- which Vietnam claims -- and north of the Spratly Islands.

Philippines Armed Forces spokesman Restituto Padilla says countries have the right to hold military exercises in international waters. He says the Philippine military does not object to the Chinese exercises. But he said China should communicate better with the militaries of other countries in the area about such exercises.

Philippine Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez told VOA in a text message that his country was concerned about the “lack of transparency and sincerity” on China’s part.

Mr. Galvez noted China’s recent build-up of seven man-made islands in the disputed waters around the Spratly Islands. The islands were once coral reefs. The Philippines claims six of the islands. Security experts say at least one of the developed reefs is big enough to be used by military airplanes and ships. American officials are concerned about the island-building and have called for it to stop.

Mr. Galvez says China is acting without concern for the effect of its actions on its neighbors.

China claims nearly all of the 3.5-million square kilometer South China Sea. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim territory in the Sea, which is said to be rich in natural resources such as oil and natural gas. Ships passing through the Sea carry trillions of dollars in products every year.

Sam Bateman is an advisor for the Maritime Security Studies program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. He says the fact that the exercises only lasted a day likely means the Chinese military did not go very far in the disputed waters. He says there is a “security dilemma” playing out in the South China Sea. He says one player was the United States Navy.

“We’ve had the issue of the USN (U.S. Navy) had recent exercises in the South China Sea with the Philippines and, of course, you know, they can be provocative towards China and likely could well provoke this sort of response from China having its own exercises.”

U.S. and international security experts have expressed concerns about China’s actions in the South China Sea. They think China may soon establish an air defense identification area over some of the disputed waters. This would permit China to demand that aircraft from other nations identify themselves and would strengthen China’s claims to territory in the area. China created an air defense identification area over the East China Sea in 2013. The United States does not recognize the identification area. And it has warned China not to try to establish such an area in the South China Sea.

A spokesman for China’s defense ministry said the military exercises this week are part of a long-term training program. He said they should not be considered anything more than that.

Without naming the United States, the spokesman said “some powerful countries outside the region lured” other countries into holding recent exercises with “China as the imaginary enemy.”

China has announced it will hold another military exercise on Saturday, in an area east of Hainan Island.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Correspondent Simone Orendain reported this story from Manila. George Grow adapted it for VOA Learning English. Christopher Jones-Cruise was the editor.


Words in This Story

live-fire – adj. using real ammunition or realistic weapons

text – adj. written or printed words

transparency – n. openness; the opposite of secret or hidden

sincerity – n. honesty; speaking and acting truly on your own beliefs

dilemma – n. a problem; a situation in which you have to make a difficult choice

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