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South China Sea: Beijing staging takeover of Pratas islands in military drill
May 12, 2020
The Chinese military is reportedly preparing to carry out a landing exercises on the strategically located Islands situated north of the South China Sea. Taiwan News reports the Chinese Southern Theatre Command will conduct a beach landing exercise involving marines, landing ships and helicopters on the Island in August.
The Pratas Islands also known as the Dongsha Islands consist of one island, two coral reefs and two banks, and are located about 170 nautical miles southeast of Hong Kong.
The Taiwanese occupied territory, which is a huge 353,668 acres, is strategically located to allow direct access from the energy-rich South China Sea to the Pacific Ocean.
China claims large parts of the South China Sea and has increased its presence by establishing military outposts on the artificial islands.
The Chinese Navy has also established a base on Hainan island and is reportedly expanding its military bases in the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands.
Last month China’s Global Television Network reported China’s Sansha city had established control over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly islands – two disputed archipelagos in the South China Sea.
The area of the South China Sea has been a flashpoint between China and the US in recent months.
Two US-flagged vessels, a USS Barry guided-missile destroyer and a USS Bunker Hill aircraft carrier sailed through the contested Spratly Islands as part of a series of naval freedom of navigation operations.
Chinese military accused the US of venturing into its occupied water – something Washington denies.
US Naval Commander Reann Mommsen said: “Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas.
“Including the freedoms of navigation and overflight and the right of innocent passage of all ships.”
China’s sovereignly over the South China Sea is disputed by claims from neighbouring Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The South China Sea is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
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A 2015 US Department of Defence report found an estimated $5.3 trillion (£4 million) worth of goods are shuttled through the region every year.
Under international law, a large part of the South China Sea comes under Vietnamese sovereignty.
However, Beijing disagrees and says that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan belongs to China – a claim rejected by an international court of arbitration in 2016.