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Chinese Navy Training in Disputed Area Ahead of Court Ruling


FILE - Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, which is known in China as the Xisha Islands, Jan. 29, 2016.

FILE - Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, which is known in China as the Xisha Islands, Jan. 29, 2016.


The Chinese government did not give details about the training. But it said the exercises would end one day before an international court rules on the dispute.

China and the Philippines both claim territorial rights to the area. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is currently considering the case. It is to announce its ruling next Monday, July 12.

The disputed territory is east of China’s Hainan Island, down to and including the Paracel Islands. The Paracels include about 130 reefs and islands.

It is believed the court will rule in favor of the Philippines next Tuesday. That could remove any legal basis for China’s claims over almost all of the South China Sea.

Maps showing the claims of six Asian countries contesting all or parts of the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea.

Maps showing the claims of six Asian countries contesting all or parts of the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea.

'Court has no jurisdiction'

China has repeatedly rejected the idea that the court has power in the area. Chinese Foreign Ministry official Hong Lei spoke at a press conference Monday. He said the court has no jurisdiction over the South China Sea dispute. He said the ruling will be “illegal and invalid.”

Hong also told reporters China has every right to claim the disputed area. He accused the former Philippine government that requested the legal action of lying.

Tang Siew Mun is an expert with the Singapore-based research organization ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. He communicated with VOA over email. He wrote that the Chinese military training, in his words, “could serve as a reminder of China’s military power and its willingness to deploy such means to protect its national interest.”

Expert: China will ignore ruling

Tang also wrote that China would ignore the court ruling. He said it will use economic offers to influence the new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. And, the researcher wrote, China will urge its southeastern Asian allies not to release statements on the ruling.

Last month, China pressured the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations about a statement it planned to make. The statement warned that recent developments about the South China Sea “may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability.” ASEAN withdrew the statement after its release.

Demonstrators display placards during a rally at the Chinese Consulate to protest Beijing's militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea, in Manila, Philippines, Feb. 25, 2016.

Demonstrators display placards during a rally at the Chinese Consulate to protest Beijing's militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea, in Manila, Philippines, Feb. 25, 2016.

Some experts say it is meaningful that China took its training to the Paracels area. The islands are under its control. It did not take the training to the Spratley Islands, where the Philippines has a presence.

However, James Nolt says the meaning is not clear. Nolt is an expert with the research organization, World Policy Institute. He told VOA that the chosen training area could simply serve the Chinese navy best. But he said it could also be a political statement to show the, in his words, “ability and intent to intervene, but not too provocative.”

US remains watchful

The United States said it will continue to watch the South China Sea situation. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan spoke about the issue last week.

In his words, “The U.S. treats this region of the world very seriously, and we have very important national-security interests that we’re not going to step away from.”

I’m Caty Weaver.

Joyce Huang wrote this story for VOA News. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

regionn. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way

arbitrationn. a process of settling an argument or disagreement in which the people or groups on both sides present their opinions and ideas to a third person or group

reefn. a long line of rocks or coral or a high area of sand near the surface of the water in the ocean

invalid adj. having no force or effect

jurisdictionn. the power or right to make judgments about the law, to arrest and punish criminals, etc.​

intent n. an aim, goal or purpose​

provocativeadj. causing discussion, thought, argument, etc.​

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