China's military is poised to hold drills around a heavily contested chain of islands in the South China Sea waters to coincide with the upcoming ruling over their ownership at The Hague. The international court is set to pronounce its verdict in the coming days on the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.
China's maritime safety administration has said in a brief statement that the military drills would take place between 5-11 July – exactly a day ahead of the 12 July ruling by the arbitration court. The drills would cover the area around the disputed Paracel Islands right through the area from China's Hainan island.
China has unilaterally ruled out navigation by other ships around the Paracel Islands – an archipelago which is also claimed by other nations, such as Taiwan and Vietnam – during the exercises.
Beijing's latest announcement has come just a day after the country's President Xi Jinping said China would not give up claiming the territorial rights of in the mineral-rich South China Sea region.
In a speech marking the 95<sup>th anniversary of the inception of the China's Communist Party, he pointedly remarked at other nations saying: "China does not covet any interests of other nations, but we'll never waive our legitimate rights. Other nations should not expect us to haggle about our core interests or take the consequences of undermining our interests concerning sovereignty, security and development."
On 12 July, The Hague is set to announce its judgment on the case brought by the Philippines, challenging China's territorial claims in those waters. However, Beijing has already made it clear that it would not respect the decision and refused to take part in the proceedings.
Multiple nations, including Malaysia and Brunei, are claimants of the South China Sea, but China asserts unilaterally that the entire region belongs to it since ancient times. Tensions have recently risen due to such claims and there have been close-shave encounters as well.