China will hold naval exercises in the South China Sea on Saturday, its maritime authorities said, following a week of condemnation from Western powers for its military ambitions across the Pacific.
The exercise is being held in the sea 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) off the coast of southern China’s Hainan province, as the United States warns of China’s growing military and economic presence in areas extending beyond the South China Sea. In the Pacific Islands.
“Military exercises will be held and entry will be banned,” the Maritime Safety Administration said in a statement on Thursday, warning that maritime traffic would be suspended for about five hours in an area of about 100 square kilometers.
China regularly conducts similar drills in the waters off its coast, with one exercise scheduled for next week in another part of the sea near Hainan, as well as multiple drills 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 is a beach for a larger effort to change the regional balance of power.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Thursday accused Beijing of escalating tensions over Taiwan, which China claims is part of its territory.
Referring to the People’s Liberation Army, Blinken said in a statement that “Beijing has been engaged in increasingly provocative rhetoric and activities such as flying PLA planes to Taiwan almost every day.”
He also called on China to work for “balance of international order”.
Blinken’s comments came after a verbal spat between Beijing and Washington over President Joe Biden’s pledge to protect Taiwan if it is attacked by China during a presidential visit to the region earlier this week.
China, in turn, has vowed to protect its national interests over Taiwan, warning Washington not to “underestimate” Beijing’s resolve and capability on the issue.
Meanwhile, governments, including Australia and New Zealand, have issued warnings this week about documents leaked that show plans to build broader security cooperation between China and the Pacific islands.
But China has said its cooperation with Pacific island nations “does not target any country” and has rejected claims that it is pressuring smaller states on security agreements.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)