Flexing its perceived authority and potentially disrupting global trade, China will reportedly run military drills in the South China Sea Thursday and has ordered all shipping to keep its distance, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The announcement came from China’s maritime safety administration and comes on the heels and likely in response to the United States sailing one of its naval destroyers last week near the Paracel Islands, located smack in the middle of the South China Sea.
The U.S. insisted it was following international law when the USS Decatur sailed near the Chinese-controlled Paracels, though China has long viewed itself as the sole power and authority in the South China Sea, even after an international tribunal ruled otherwise earlier this year. The roughly 200-nautical-mile waterway, which some estimates claim funnels some 50 percent of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage, has been contested and claimed by many Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines, among others, but China has long insisted otherwise.
The military drills also come after the U.S. and Japan announced plans to conduct similar drills in the South China Sea last month. The growing tensions between the U.S., China, and Japan has recently expanded to include fiery Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who visited China last week and is next scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to The Diplomat.
Duterte, bucking decades of good relations with Washington, blasted the U.S. before and during his stay in China but on Saturday he also tried to bridge the divide between Beijing and Tokyo. Specifically, he suggested a potential role for Japan in “multilateral” talks over the South China Sea, The Diplomat reported.
“To the Chinese government, I said, well if that is the thing, that is what is in your mind because that is also my stand, we will find the day to talk about it, only on the issue of the South China Sea and no topic at all,” he said back home in Davao City. “It could be bilateral, it depends on the development, it could be multilateral and that would include Japan. Those are what I suggested, in the future.”