Amidst tensions with Vietnam, China has announced a new military exercise beginning July 1 off Xisha Islands, internationally known as Parcel Islands in the South China Sea.
“Military exercises will be held in waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea from Wednesday to July 5,” a notice released by China's Maritime Safety Administration said, according to state media.
The No. 0059 Navigation Notice ‘Military Exercise in Waters Around The Xisha Islands’ reads that there will be military training exercises in the waters off the Xisha Islands from 0000 hours on July 1st to 2400 hours on July 5th Beijing time. During the period, no vessel shall be allowed to navigate within the above lines and all vessels have to follow the guidance of the commanding ship on site.
A PLA Southern Theater Command naval flotilla featuring destroyers and frigates also executed maritime operations in the South China Sea on June 18, China Military Online reported on Friday.
At the recently concluded virtual ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) summit, leaders called to resume stalled negotiations for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between China and ASEAN, which was hoped to be concluded in 2021, and ASEAN has said the process should soon be resumed in a bid for regional peace and stability.
Vietnam had sent a diplomatic note to China on March 30, 2020 stating "full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands (China renamed as Nansha and Xisha islands) in accordance with international law."
Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted later that Xisha and Nansha islands are within China's territory, saying Vietnam's claims are “illegal and invalid.”
Hanoi is planning to take China to the International Court of Justice and reports in Chinese media indicate that Beijing is preparing a legal response.
China has plans to declare lines around the Spratlys to consolidate its claims of exclusive maritime and restart its oil and gas explorations there, which were suspended in 1994 after strong opposition from Hanoi.