Three Chinese warships are set to conduct naval drills and war games in the Western Pacific and will likely pass through disputed waters in the East and South China Sea.
The apparent show of China’s rising military might comes as Beijing is engaged in a high stakes dispute over maritime territories with Japan and with several Southeast Asian nations, raising fears that it could spill over into a crisis.
But the Defence Ministry dismissed concerns, saying the exercises were part of routine.
“The fleet will carry out more than 20 types of exercises including naval confrontation, battle drills far out at sea, the protection of maritime rights and command and control,” the official Xinhua news agency stated, citing a statement from the Defence Ministry.
“These exercises on the high seas will take in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, the Miyako Strait, the Bashi Channel and the seas to the east of Taiwan.”
Beijing’s military spending has grown over the years, particularly in beefing up a navy that could operate far from it shores as it seeks military clout in the region and beyond.
The US and other Asian nations criticized China for its lack of transparency over its military advances while Beijing claims it is simply updating its outdated forces.
Last week, the Philippines notified China that it would challenge Beijing’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea before a UN tribunal.