By: Elena Grace Flores
Beijing’s military drills in the South China Sea that started a day prior to the international ruling that awarded sovereignty to the Philippines and rejected China’s historical claims on the disputed marine territories are enhance to particularly scare off the Phillipines – displaying live missiles to influence Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decission into sharing the mineral-rich territories with them through a joint exploration project.Their navy carried out “combat exercises” with “live missiles” between the Paracels and the southern Chinese island of Hainan. Images of fighter aircraft and ships firing missiles, helicopters taking off and submarines surfacing are also featured in Chinese media. “The drill focused on air control operations, sea battles and anti-submarine warfare”, confirmed their defense ministry.
The military maneuvres come as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is set to rule but these “routine exercises” were tagged by China as unrelated to the court’s ruling. China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbours, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam. To bolster its claims it has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.
The Philippines said that it was willing to share natural resources with Beijing in the contested seas even if it wins next week’s legal challenge but this has created a stir in the Philippine senate and congress since the executive branch does not have the sole power to decide on it.Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China after the verdict. He said the negotiations could cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. However, Yasay retracted his message after massive criticisms from the public; saying – “What I said is, we have to wait for the ruling and study and dissect its implications.”