China announced new military drills in the East China Sea, adding to exercises under way in other areas that may further disrupt domestic air travel and add to tensions with neighbors over territorial disputes in the region.
China begins five days of drills in the East China Sea tomorrow, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement on its website yesterday. Those exercises, which the ministry called routine, come while China is holding live-fire drills off Beibu Bay, or the Gulf of Tonkin, near Vietnam and drills in the Bohai Strait that both end Aug. 1.
While the scale of the current drills is bigger than in the past, it’s a coincidence the annual exercises are being held at the same time, Beijing News reported yesterday, citing Zhang Junshe, a researcher at Navy Military Research Institute.
President Xi Jinping has been expanding the reach of China’s navy and using the added muscle to more aggressively assert territorial claims in the region. Chinese and Japanese ships regularly tail one another off disputed islands in the East China Sea, while deadly, anti-Chinese riots broke out in Vietnam in May after China set up an oil rig in waters also claimed by that country. The Philippines has sought United Nations arbitration in its maritime spat with China.