China and Russia will hold “routine” naval exercises in the South China Sea in September, Beijing’s Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in the contested waters after an arbitration court in The Hague ruled this month that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea and criticized its environmental destruction there.
“This is a routine exercise between the two armed forces, aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership,” China’s defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular monthly news conference. “The exercise is not directed against third parties.”
China and Russia are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, and have held similar views on many major issues such as the crisis in Syria, putting them at odds with the United States and Western Europe.
Last year, they held joint military drills in the Sea of Japan and the Mediterranean.