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China launches exercises on disputed Paracel Islands, report says

By
Elizabeth Shim
China’s Maritime Safety Administration began conducting exercises on the disputed Paracel Islands on Tuesday, according to a Vietnamese press report. File Photo by Nyein Chan Naing/EPA
China’s Maritime Safety Administration began conducting exercises on the disputed Paracel Islands on Tuesday, according to a Vietnamese press report. File Photo by Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

Aug. 6 (UPI) -- China continues to engage in exercises in the South China Sea despite recent protest from ASEAN member states, according to a Vietnamese press report.

VN Express reported Tuesday the Maritime Safety Administration of Hainan Province, China, said it would engage in training on the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam.

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The exercises that began Tuesday took place every two to three hours and are to conclude on Wednesday. China has banned all ships from traveling in nearby waters during training.

The unilateral Chinese decision to engage in drills comes a few days after Southeast Asia's top diplomats agreed military actions threaten economic activity on their coasts, during the 9th East Asia Summit in Bangkok on Friday.

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Tensions between China and Vietnam escalated following an at-sea confrontation near the disputed Spratly Islands in July, when Vietnamese ships in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone confronted the Haiyang Dizhi 8, a Chinese survey ship.

Vietnam claims China forcibly occupied the Paracel Islands in 1974. China has claimed the South China Sea as its territorial waters.

The United States has repeatedly warned Beijing against escalating militarization in the South China Sea, while China has said it will not tolerate the United States if the world's largest economy deploys missiles in Asia following U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

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Russia may also not stand idly by, Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement on Monday Russia will also deploy missiles if the United States develops new midrange ballistic missiles. Russia could deploy its missiles in the Russian Far East, within close range of Japan and South Korea, according to the Nikkei.

In an interview with Fox News, White House national security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday the U.S. plan to potentially deploy missiles in Asia is related to protecting its allies and U.S. troops in the region.

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