“The drill focused on air control operations, sea battles and anti-submarine warfare,” the website of China’s Ministry of Defense states.
Despite media speculations suggesting the maneuvers were undertaken in the wake of a ruling by The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), expected to be ordered on July 12, the PLA called the event “routine exercises.”
The ongoing trial was brought to the court in 2013 by the Philippines claiming China has no historical rights for some areas it considers its sovereign territory. Beijing has declined a participation in the trial, suggesting the disputes should be resolved through talks among interested countries without involvement of third parties.
"China adheres to the position of settling disputes through negotiation and consultation with states directly concerned," state-run news agency Xinhua reiterated Beijing’s official position on the issue on Saturday.
However, the United States supports the Philippines in the standoff in an apparent attempt to meddle in the row.
Washington has recently sent three destroyers into the South China Sea in a move of "deliberate show of force" in the run up to court decision, American military experts said.
China has warned all the provocateurs from facilitating the tensions, saying Beijing won’t take a “single step back” in the conflict and expressed readiness to strike back if the situation deteriorated.
The Chinese military has at its disposal HQ-9 SAMs and ASCMs missiles stationed in the Spratly Islands. Beijing could also turn artificial islands it had constructed on the coral reefs in the South China Sea into military bases, installing missile systems there, experts suggest.
Meanwhile, the Philippines made a step toward downgrading the conflict on Friday. The country’s Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said that Manila hopes for direct negotiations with Beijing after The Hague. He also suggested both nations could share natural resources preserved in the disputed areas.