With tensions rising in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, Beijing has announced the start of five military exercises in different parts of its coast for the second time in the last two months.

Two of the exercises have been held on the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, one in the East China Sea and one further north in the Bohai Sea, the China Maritime Safety Administration reported on its website.

The Paracel Islands have been under Chinese Communist Party (CCP) occupation since 1974, however they are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

On Saturday, Sept. 26, the Safety Administration issued two notices announcing that access to areas around the islands is prohibited. According to Reuters, the CCP periodically conducts military exercises but rarely does so simultaneously.

From Monday through Wednesday, drills will be held in the southern part of the Yellow Sea and according to a Chinese army source, the drill is a live-fire exercise.

Last month the CCP announced four separate exercises; from the Bohai Sea to the East and Yellow seas to the disputed South China Sea.

The last two CCP drills in the area of Paracel Islands, on June 1 and July 18, received a strong response from the United States and Vietnam.

According to the South China Morning Post, in July Hanoi noted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had violated Vietnam’s sovereignty and also complicated negotiations between Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

For Washington, the military exercises being conducted by the CCP had further destabilized the region. 

The South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest waterways, has generated intense disputes over the years over claims by the CCP, as well as countries in the region such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

According to a July State Department statement, “Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with “might makes right.”

At the end of August, the PLA launched two missiles in the South China Sea in response to the activity of a U.S. aircraft, which was classified by the CCP as a spy plane.

However, the Pentagon noted that the plane’s flight was “within accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flight.”

In response to the missile launches, the Pentagon noted, “Such exercises also violate the commitments of the People’s Republic of China under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or aggravate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Last Sunday the U.S. State Department declared that the CCP had broken its promises on the South China Sea.

“Five years ago General Secretary Xi Jinping stated ‘China does not intend to pursue militarization’ of the Spratly Islands, and China’s outposts would not ‘target or impact any country,’” the statement said, noting that the CCP had pursued a reckless and provocative militarization of the area.

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