China Admiral Warns Freedom of Navigation Patrols Could End 'in Disaster'

Beijing will close off access to part of the South China Sea for military drills, officials said Monday, after an worldwide tribunal ruled against its sweeping claims in the waters.

China has launched a massive land seizure and rebuilding effort throughout the South China Sea in recent years, transforming numerous reefs into artificial islands that can support military installations, ignoring competing claims over the region by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, as well as the Philippines.

China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually.

The maritime administration said that an area southeast of the island would be closed until July 12 without providing details about the nature of the military exercises.

About 20 Vietnamese demonstrators were detained on Sunday while trying to hold a protest against China's rejection of an global court decision that denied its vast claims in the South China Sea.

Manila has so far been keen not to rock the boat in the hope of starting dialogue towards Beijing allowing it to exercise what the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled were its sovereign maritime rights. Discussions about China helping the Philippines to build a high-speed rail, a project Duterte wants, could begin "any time", he said. The visit by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, also will include a tour of the aircraft carrier Liaoning in its home port of Qingdao.

Afterwards, it landed two civilian aircraft on new airstrips on the disputed Mischief and Subi reefs.

China says if its interests in the South China Sea are threatened, it could declare an air defense identification zone in the area. Blair said the objective of such an action was not to pick a fight with China at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, but to set a limit on its military coercion.

Duterte has been more conciliatory with China than his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who filed the arbitration complaint against Beijing.

Beijing also stated on Monday that it would not halt the construction on islands and reefs in the South China Sea, state news agency Xinhua reported the head of the country's navy as saying, adding that China will not leave the outcropping that is under construction half finished. Those patrols prompted Beijing to send fighter jets and ships to track and warn off the American ships, while accusing the USA of threatening its national security.

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