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China, Russia to hold South China Sea ‘drills’ next month

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Amid rising tensions with the Obama administration and its neighbors across East Asia, China will hold a week of naval drills with Russia in the South China Sea next month, the two countries said Monday.

Vladimir Matveyev, spokesman for the Russian navy’s Pacific fleet, said the previously announced joint drills will be held over eight days starting Sept. 12 and will focus on protecting merchant ships in the heavily-trafficked waterway. The two navies will also engage in mock island landings, according to a report Monday in the TASS news agency.

The exercises come as Beijing had become increasingly assertive in its broad claims to sovereignty to the waters off its coastline, parts of which are also claimed by Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries in the region. Chinese state media reacted angrily last month when an international arbitration board in The Hague sided with Manila in a bilateral dispute over key strategic island outposts in the sea. – READ MORE

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