A fleet of Russian warships will soon sail towards the South China Sea to participate in a joint naval drill with the People's Liberation Army Navy in September. The two countries are pressing ahead with the joint exercise in the disputed waters despite an international arbitrary court ruling in July that China's claims over most part of the sea is "illegal".
An official from Russia's Pacific Fleet said the ships, participating in the Joint Sea 2016 exercise, are expected to start their voyage to the South China Sea in early September.
"At the beginning of September, a detachment consisting of the big antisubmarine ships Admiral Tributs and Admiral Vinogradov, the big amphibious ship Peresvet, the sea towboat Alatau, and the tanker Pechenga will head for Zhanjiang in China," Captain 2nd Rank Vladimir Matveyev, the chief press officer of Eastern Military District for the Pacific Fleet, told Russia's TASS news agency.
"From September 11 through to September 19, the ship crew will take part in the Joint Sea 2016 wargames of the Chinese Naval Force that will be held on the coast and in the water area of the South China Sea," he added.
The captain stated that this will mark the fifth year of the joint naval exercise, with the previous one held in 2015 in the Sea of Japan. The aim behind holding the drill is to consolidate practical cooperation and counteraction against various threats in the sea, he explained.
The crew members of the participating ships have already coordinated various aspects of manoeuvring, anti-subversion, anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, and anti-ship defence have performed preparatory artillery firing at aerial and sea-based targets, Matveyev said.
Meanwhile, China's refusal to abide by the Hague court ruling in July and constant military activities in the disputed waters has irked the Philippines, which is opposed to China's maritime claims over the Spratly Islands and other parts of the sea. Philippines brought the case to the international court when China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, denying Filipino fishermen access to the resource-rich waters.
Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay warned China on Tuesday (30 August) that it will be the "loser" if it continues to ignore the court ruling on territorial claims in the South China Sea. "We are trying to make China understand especially when the dust settles that unless they respect and recognize the arbitral tribunal, they will be the losers at the end of that day on this matter," Yasay told a congressional hearing.
"When we start formal negotiations or bilateral engagements with China, we will have to do it within the context of the arbitral decision. There are no buts or ifs insofar as our policy on this matter is concerned," the minister added.
Further, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is on a visit to India, has urged China and Philippines to abide by the Hague court's decision to mitigate tensions over the territorial claims. "This is a crucial opportunity to uphold the existing rules-based international order, show respect for international law, and support regional stability and prosperity," Kerry said in New Delhi on 31 August.