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Iran Press TV

Beijing steps up military exercises in South China Sea

Iran Press TV

Sun Dec 13, 2015 5:28AM

Chinese Defense Ministry says the country has stepped up its military drills over the past days in the disputed South China Sea as part of its routine exercises.

The ministry said in a Sunday statement that China's navy has in recent days organized a fleet to go to relevant waters in the South China Sea to stage exercises.

"This action is a routine arrangement made in accordance with this year's naval training plan," the statement added without specifying the exact location of the drills.

Pictures emerged online recently have also shown Chinese navy ships carrying out live-fire exercises in the region.

Beijing has, on different occasions, asserted its sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which serves as a crossing for more than USD 5 trillion worth of maritime trade annually. The sea is also claimed in part by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The United States has sided with China's rivals in the territorial dispute, with Beijing accusing Washington of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the contested waters.

The US, however, has accused Beijing of implementing what it calls a land reclamation program in the South China Sea by building artificial islands in the disputed areas.

China is allegedly changing the Spratly archipelago by turning its reefs into artificial islands and also constructing airfields and other facilities on some of them.

In recent weeks, American B-52 bombers have flown near some islands claimed by China in the South China Sea. A US guided-missile destroyer also sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China's islands in October.

China is also concerned about a deal between the US and Singapore under which a US P8 Poseidon spy plane is to be deployed in Singapore. Beijing has said the move is aimed at militarizing the region.

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