The contested South China Sea will be the site of further naval exercise between China and Russia later in September. The Chinese Defence Ministry which gave the hint earlier today took note to clarify that the exercise is not targeted at any third party but in response to unclear maritime security threats. China and Russia have held such exercises in the past but coming in the wake of the ruling against China’s claims to the sea by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, China watchers are reading meaning to this announcement. The tussle over ownership and control of the South China Sea is not a strictly Asian security issue because the United States could be drawn into it. The United States has no direct claims to the South China Sea but argues its right of access to international sea lanes, a claim which China interprets as interventionism and solidarity with US allies in Asia such as Philippines and Japan and other countries with claims to the sea to which China lays historical claims.
In the circumstance, China and Russia’s ‘routine’ exercise automatically acquires the exact opposite in meaning of the word routine, what with Russia’s own reservations about NATO’s in-road into the former Eastern Europe. In late 2015, China announced shadowing a US guided-missile destroyer which it said breached the 12 – nautical mile off limit into the area but which the US says is not applicable in the case of man – made seas. Analysts think that as dangerous as the contestations around the South China sea is, much of these are also part of the games nations or great powers play as none of them is ignorant of the risks of undue escalation.