Beijing warns ships to stay away as exercises last until March 15
China has been conducting military exercises for more than a week in Vietnam’s Baltic (South China Sea) in an area between the southern province of Hainan and Vietnam.
China claims much of the disputed waterway, which carries important shipping routes, and has built artificial islands and airfields on some of its reefs and islets, much to widespread concern in the region and in the United States.
###: Vietnam Expresses Concern Over China’s Possible Weapons Use in Disputed Waters
In a statement late Friday, the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration said the exercises would begin the same day and last until March 15.
It provided coordinates for an area about halfway between Sanya in Hainan and the Vietnamese city of Hue. Sanya is home to a major Chinese naval base.
“Entry prohibited,” it said in a Chinese and English-language statement on its website.
Some of the area is well within Vietnam’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, and Vietnam has previously criticized China for what it calls encroachments on its sovereignty.
The Chinese Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and neither did the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2014, tensions between Vietnam and China rose to their highest level in decades when a Chinese oil rig began drilling in Vietnamese waters. The incident sparked boat rams by both sides and anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.
China routinely conducts military exercises in the South China Sea.
Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei all have competing claims as well.