The Chinese navy has conducted combat drills in the South China Sea in a show of strength ahead of the July 12 verdict of an international tribunal on a dispute with the Philippines over the strategic waters.
The exercises were held in the waters adjacent to south China’s Hainan Island and Xisha Islands also known as Parcel islands which are claimed by Vietnam in the South China Sea (SCS).
The Nanhai Fleet, as well as some forces of the Beihai Fleet and Donghai Fleet, took part in the navy’s annual routine military exercise that covered all sorts of combat platforms, including the air arm, submarine, surface vessel and coastal defence force, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today.
Vietnam has protested to China over the drills. The exercises focusing on air control operations, sea battles and anti-submarine warfare are expected to last till tomorrow, a day ahead of the verdict by the tribunal, constituted by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, would rule on Philippines petition challenging the claims of China over the SCS on July 12.
China’s claims on almost all of the SCS were contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan which have counter claims. China has boycotted the tribunal and asserted that it will not implement the verdict of the tribunal.
Meanwhile, state media reported today that China plans to deploy more unmanned Chinese ships in the domestic and international waters including the SCS and the Antarctic foroceanic survey and patrol missions.
Founded in 2010, the Research Institute of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) Engineering at Shanghai University, which is also China’s first USV development institute, has been providing a series of independently designed unmanned ships coded “Jinghai”, Xinhua reported.
Additional unmanned ships could shoulder more responsibilities in the near future, including surveying and mapping coastal areas, maritime search and rescue, offshore patrol, anti-smuggling and sea route protection.
Experts also noted that the ships could participate in more missions near ports and oil drilling rigs, Xinhua report said.
Apart from Shanghai University, several other universities and institutes under China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have also joined the USV research and development process, the report said.