China and Russia are holding eight days of naval drills in the South China Sea in what is billed as the largest such joint operation by the two countries.
The “Joint Sea-2016″ exercise, which begins Monday, will feature surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters and marines, Reuters reports.
The two navies will carry out defense, rescue and anti-submarine operations, as well as “island seizing” and other activities, the Chinese navy was quoted as saying in a statement Sunday.
Marines will participate in live-fire drills, island defense and landing operations in the exercise in waters off China’s southern Guangdong province.
The naval drills come at a time of heightened tension in the contested waters after an arbitration court in The Hague ruled in July that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea.
Beijing said the naval exercises were intended to strengthen cooperation between China and Russia and that they were not aimed at any other country.
China and Russia are veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, and have held similar views on many major issues, often putting them at odds with the United States and Western Europe.
Last year, they held joint military drills in the Sea of Japan and the Mediterranean.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.
China has repeatedly blamed the US for stoking tension in the region through its military patrols, and of taking sides in the dispute.
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