South China Sea crisis: Beijing begins live-fire drills to counter US military presence
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As the US increase their military presence in the highly contested region, China is retaliating against Washington and have begun worrying drills off the Leizhou Peninsula, not far from Vietnam.
The drills are expected to continue until August 2 and China has warned civilian vessels not to enter the area.
China and Vietnam are currently in a territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands which face claims from Beijing, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hanoi.
The South China Sea is a highly disputed territory where it faces rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Diplomatic relations between the nations, which have laid claim to the islands, are already extremely strained.
China has constructed military bunkers on some of the atolls in the region, sparking a potential conflict.
Relations between China and the US have become strained since the outbreak of COVID-19, with Washington blaming Beijing for the deadly pandemic.
And US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued warning to Beijing in regards to the South China Sea conflict.
Mr Pompeo urged other nations to counter China and claimed the Communist nation were violating international law in the region.
He tweeted over the weekend: “The United States’ policy is crystal clear: the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire.
“If Beijing violates international law and free nations do nothing, history shows the CCP will simply take more territory.
“China Sea disputes must be resolved through international law.”
Despite the US having no claim to any part of the region, they have increased their military presence over recent weeks.
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Back in May, Independence-class US Navy littoral combat ships were spotted patrolling the much-disputed South China Sea.
The US Air Force and Marines conducted training exercises in the area with three submarines joining ships and aircraft in the nearby Philippine Sea.
The actions are thought to be a reaction to Chinese harassment of ships drilling for resources in nearby waters.
China has exerted its dominance over the contested region, sparking fears of a potential war outbreak.
South China Sea expert Hu Bo warned of a potential conflict between the US and China is on the cards.
Speaking to CGTN, the Director of the Center for Maritime Strategy Research said: “Although the US has been trying to decouple from China in other areas, they are still closely connected.
“The chances of a large-scale conflict happening are small.
“But a medium or small-scale conflict is possible, such as two warships hitting each other or occasional crossfire since the two countries’ warships and aircraft encounter each other.”
Over the last few weeks, Beijing has confronted several foreign ships passing through the South China Sea.
Five Australian warships were stopped by Chinese vessels after they arrived to show support for US and Japanese militaries.
China has become an international concern with the US, UK and Australia all confronting the Communist nation.
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