South China Sea access banned due to military manoeuvres

Beijing: Beijing has banned access to waters near the Paracel islands in the South China Sea, which are controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, between July 5-11 to carry out military manoeuvres. The exercises, announced late Sunday night by China's Maritime Safety Administration in a statement, will take place a week before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague delivers its verdict on July 12 on a complaint filed by the Philippines regarding its dispute with China over the sovereignty of the Spratly archipelago, EFE news reported. However, the naval manoeuvres will be carried out in another area of the South China Sea, which is not claimed by the Philippines, located east of the Chinese island of Hainan, in a stretch extending to the Paracel islands, known as the Xisha islands in Chinese. China seized control of Paracel islands in 1974 after defeating then South Vietnam in a naval face-off, but the archipelago, comprising around 40 islands, is also claimed by the government of present day Vietnam. Conflict over the island has worsened in recent years, with greater involvement by the US in that and another dispute between China and other countries of the region over the Spratly archipelago.