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A week after a Hague tribunal ruled against its territorial claims to 80 percent of the South China Sea, Beijing is organizing military exercises in the area. A zone to the southeast of the island of Hainan will be closed until Thursday for the exercises. No further details were released.
China rejected the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling from July 11, saying it does not recognize its authority and will continue to pursue its territorial interests, which, according to the court, have so far included illegally building artificial islands and disrupting fishing and hydrocarbon exploration in the basin.
The case that was brought in front of the Hague-based court was initiated by the Philippines, which, like other countries around the South China Sea, among them Taiwan and Vietnam, has claims to it.
The South China Sea is a major waterway connecting Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. It’s also rich in oil and gas, which is part of the reason why China is claiming ownership of the islands in the sea and the territory around them.
ABC News quoted the head of the country’s navy last Tuesday as saying that Beijing “could declare an air defense identification zone” over the area, confirming worries that it could block the waterway if it feels so inclined, wreaking havoc on global maritime transport.
Although no blocking has occurred, in the week since the ruling, China has done some muscle-flexing, including landing planes on two brand-new airstrips on two disputed reefs, and sending its coast guard to stop Philippine fishermen from fishing a contested shoal. In addition to that, a spokesman for the air force told media that fighter and bomber patrol over the South China Sea will become a regular practice.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.