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China Sends Aircraft Carrier for 'Sovereignty' Drills in South China Sea

It's a routine exercise, says Beijing.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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China said the group of its aircraft carrier, Shandong, was recently in the South China Sea for drills aimed at asserting "sovereignty" as a standoff with the Philippines dragged.

It was a routine exercise, Gao Xiucheng, a Navy spokesperson for the People's Liberation Army, told state-run CGTN television. Gao did not specifiy the area where the training took place.

“It is completely legitimate and beneficial in improving the country’s ability to uphold national sovereignty and security,” Gao was quoted in a statement.

Last week, the Philippine Coast Guard held drills in disputed waters, prompting a warning from Beijing against "complicating" the situation. Since April, Philippine and Chinese ships have been locked in a standoff over fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea, which is engulfed by what China claims as its own, the South China Sea.

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana last week said the reefs and islands that Beijing claims, despite falling within Manila's EEZ or exclusive economic zone, belong to the Philippines.

China has refused to pull out its ships from reefs inside the Philippines' EEZ despite daily diplomatic protests and summons on its ambassador to Manila.

China is claiming almost the entire South China Sea, overlapping with claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. Some $3.4 million worth of trade passes through the disputed waters annually and Washington has expressed concern over Beijing's actions in the region.

The Chinese government also refuses to recognize a UN court's ruling that favored the Philippines and invalidated its vast claims.

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While the Philippines has filed numerous diplomatic protests over China's actions that endangered the lives of Filipino fishermen, Beijing has built artificial islands over the disputed reefs.

This story originally appeared on Reportr.world. Minor edits have been made by Esquiremag.ph editors.

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