China patrols South China Sea in apparent response to U.S. naval drills with allies

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BEIJING–China’s military said Sunday that it had conducted air and sea patrols and that all activities that “disrupt the South China Sea” are under control, an apparent response to naval exercises by the U.S. and its allies.

The defense chiefs of the United States, Japan, Australia and the Philippines announced Saturday that they would hold joint exercises in the sea to safeguard the rule of law and uphold the right to sail through and fly over the waters.

China has long-simmering territorial disputes with a number of Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea, a major shipping route. Skirmishes with the Philippines in particular have flared up since last year.

The U.S. has conducted joint patrols with the Philippines in a show of support. China says the U.S. is inflaming tensions by meddling in the disputes.

A brief statement from the Chinese military’s Southern Theater Command said it had organized patrols and that “all military activities that disrupt the South China Sea and create hotspots are under control.”

The statement did not mention the United States or the joint exercises.

Likewise, the U.S. and its allies did not mention China in their statement, but the four countries reaffirmed their stance that a 2016 international arbitration ruling — which invalidated China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea — was final and legally binding.

The growing tensions in the disputed waters are expected to be high on the agenda when U.S. President Joe Biden hosts his Japanese and Philippine counterparts in a summit at the White House this week.

Source: Asahi