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China to hold drills in East Vietnam Sea ahead of court ruling

Monday, July 04, 2016, 08:16 GMT+7

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will hold military drills around Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the East Vietnam Sea, the maritime safety administration said on Sunday, ahead of a decision by an international court in a dispute between China and the Philippines.

China routinely carries out exercises in the East Vietnam Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Tensions have been rising ahead of a July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing the dispute between China and the Philippines over the East Vietnam Sea in the Dutch city of The Hague.

In a brief online statement, China's maritime safety administration said the drills would take place from July 5-11, and gave coordinates for the drills that cover an area from the east of China's Hainan island down to and including Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracels).

Other ships are prohibited from entering those waters during that time, it said, without further elaboration.

China has built a runway on Phu Lam (Woody) Island, the site of the largest Chinese presence on Hoang Sa, and placed surface-to-air missiles there, according to U.S. officials.

China says it is perfectly within its rights to do what it wants on the islands in the East Vietnam Sea, saying they have been Chinese territory since ancient times.

About $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year though the energy-rich, strategic waters of the East Vietnam Sea.

Reuters/Tuoi Tre News

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