South China Sea: Beijing embarks on month of military drills as fears of all-out war rise

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The drills will take place west of the Leizhou Peninsula and will run from Monday until the end the month. The area will be closed off to all other vessels, according to a notice posted on the website of China’s Maritime Safety Administration. The new exercises appear to be a response to increased US military activity in the region over recent weeks and months.

Monitoring data provided by a Beijing think tank showed that the US has just carried out a number of surveillance missions over the last week.

The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) said that the US military sent various reconnaissance aircraft to the South China Sea on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

These included an MQ-4C maritime reconnaissance drone, an EP-3E spy plane and an RC-135U strategic reconnaissance aircraft.

At the same time, the US Navy dispatched the ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable to the region on Friday.

Military experts told China’s state media outlet The Global Times that these operations will allow the US to increase its military intelligence on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

They will allow the US military to eavesdrop on PLA communications, learn more about the electromagnetic signal patterns of Chinese equipment, as well as to plant underwater sonar devices to track PLA submarines, the Chinese analysts claimed.

A naval expert also told The Global Times that the PLA should step up its combat preparedness to counter further provocations from the US and its allies.

China has provoked tensions with its regional neighbours and the US over its claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea.

The People’s Republic says that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan belongs to it.

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Beijing’s claim is based on the U-shaped nine-dash line etched onto a map in the 1940s by a Chinese geographer.

In 2016, an international court of arbitration dismissed China’s territorial claims.

The US navy along with its allies often carries out “freedom of navigation” patrols in the region, which Beijing views as highly provocative.

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