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Before key court ruling, China to flex military muscle at sea

BEIJING - China will hold seven-day military drills around disputed islands starting Tuesday, the maritime safety administration announced Sunday, ahead of an arbitration court ruling on its sweeping claims to the South China Sea.

China is boycotting the case before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in which the Philippines is challenging the validity of the nine-dash line that China uses to demarcate its claims to most of the South China Sea.

The court has said it will make a ruling on July 12.

President Obama warns of growing tensions in South China Sea

China regularly holds military exercises in the South China Sea. The Maritime Safety Administration said the latest ones would be held from Tuesday to July 11. It gave coordinates that run from the east of China's Hainan Island and encompass the Paracel Islands, and said entering the area was prohibited.

The Paracel island chain is controlled by Beijing but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Tensions have been rising in the South China Sea over China's claims to the waters and island chains that are disputed by other Asian countries.

Six Asian countries, including Vietnam, have territorial claims in the sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes and natural resources. But Chinaclaims nearly all of it, and has spent a lot of time and money in recent years turning reefs and shoals into islands -- some now complete with runways, tennis courts, and military capability.

More than 3,200 acres of land have been added to the Chinese-built islands since 2013.

To show its displeasure, the U.S. has increased patrols in and over the sea -- some of them sailing close to the Chinese islands.

When Mr. Obama lifted the 41-year-old arms embargo on Vietnam in May, he said China wasn't part of his calculation. The Chinese aren't buying that.

"Obama claimed that this move is not aimed at China, yet this is only a very poor lie," said an editorial in a state-backed Chinese newspaper, accusing the U.S. of "taking advantage of Vietnam to stir up more trouble in the South China Sea."

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