MOSCOW (Sputnik) — During the drills near eastern Hainan Island, "no vessel is allowed to enter the designated maritime areas," China's Maritime Safety Administration said as quoted by The China Daily newspaper.
The South China Sea dispute centers on the Spratly Islands, a group of more than 750 islands and reefs, where China has been constructing artificial islands on coral reefs over the past few months, some with defense facilities.
The archipelago, holding potentially significant oil and gas reserves, is the subject of a territorial dispute between several regional countries.
On Thursday, Beijing demanded the Philippines to withdraw a decommissioned World War 2 US Navy vessel deliberately grounded off a disputed shoal in the South China Sea and currently serving as a military outpost.
Last month, Japanese media reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a closed-doors meeting that Japan's new security bills, allowing Japan's troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II, could enable Tokyo to side with Washington against Beijing in the South China Sea's dispute.