China plans new military exercises in South China Sea

BEIJING: China will hold naval exercises in the South China Sea on Saturday, its maritime authority said, after a week of recriminations by Western powers over its military ambitions in the Pacific region.
The exercises, to be held at sea less than 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) off the coast of southern China’s Hainan province, come as the United States leads warnings of a growing military presence. and China’s economy in an area stretching from the South China Sea. to the Pacific Islands.
“Military exercises will be held and entry is prohibited,” the Maritime Security administration said in a statement on Thursday, warning that an area of ​​about 100 square kilometers would be closed to maritime traffic for five hours.
China routinely conducts similar drills in waters close to its shores, with an exercise in another area of ​​the sea near Hainan scheduled for next week, as well as many others along the country’s east coast.
But the latest exercises come as Beijing faces a growing chorus of warnings from the United States and its Western allies about its naval ambitions, which critics say are a bridgehead for a broader attempt to shift the regional balance of power.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Beijing on Thursday of escalating tensions over Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory.
“Beijing has engaged in increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity, such as flying PLA planes near Taiwan on an almost daily basis,” Blinken said in a speech, referring to the People’s Liberation Army.
He also called for efforts to counter China’s “intention to reshape the international order.”
Blinken’s comments followed verbal spats between Beijing and Washington over President Joe Biden’s promise to defend Taiwan if China attacks it, made during the president’s trip to the region earlier this week.
China, in turn, vowed to defend its national interests on Taiwan and warned Washington not to “underestimate” Beijing’s resolve and capabilities on the issue.
Meanwhile, governments including Australia and New Zealand have sounded the alarm this week over leaked documents that appeared to show a plan to build extensive security cooperation between China and the Pacific Islands.
But China has said its cooperation with Pacific Island countries is “not targeting any country” and has rejected claims it is pressuring small states to sign security deals.

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