By Wang Qingyun (China Daily)
Large Medium SmallChina said its naval drill in the South China Sea is within its sovereign rights, and it urged the Philippines to come back to the negotiating table to solve its maritime disputes with China regardless of an arbitrary tribunal's ruling.
"The drill is a routine exercise the Chinese Navy carries out according to the annual plan. It is within China's sovereign rights and is not targeting any specific countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.
Hong made the remarks after Vietnam claimed the drill was violating Vietnamese sovereignty.
The Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Tuesday that China would hold a drill in the area between Hainan Island and the Xisha Islands in the first 10 days of July and that military equipment including multiple ships and fixed-wing aircraft would participate.
The Defense Ministry said the drill "aims at improving the military's ability to respond to security threats and implement missions".
"The Xisha Islands are China's inherent territory. There is no dispute of this," Hong reiterated on Wednesday. He asked the parties concerned to "objectively view" the drill.
The drill takes place ahead of ruling expected on July 12 in the arbitration case the Philippines filed in 2013 against China over disputes in the South China Sea.
"China will not accept any country's claim or action based on the so-called ruling", Hong said, after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is reported to have said the Philippines is ready to talk to China if the ruling is in the Philippines' favor.
Hong reiterated that the arbitration case filed by the Aquino III administration is "illegal and invalid from the start", and he urged the new Philippine government to "abandon the old administration's wrong practice" and "come back to the proper path of talking and negotiating with China".
Xu Liping, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China is not concerned about whom the ruling will favor as it has already made clear that it will not accept or participate in, acknowledge or implement the ruling.
Xu suggested that the Philippines cool down and be low key about the ruling. He said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the Philippines will return to the consensus it reached with China, which is to deal with its maritime disputes with China through bilateral talks.