The largest ever joint military operation between China and Russia has begun as both nations openly claim they are intent on seizing control of a hotly disputed stretch of the South China Sea.
The two countries have teamed up for the ambitious operation to control the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in annual trade passes.
The military move is likely to anger US officials who regularly sail military ships through the region in a bid to assert the right to freedom of navigation.
The operation, taking place off the southern coast of Guangdong province, near the city of Zhanjiang, involves surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters, marine corps and amphibious armored equipment.
He added: “Compared with previous joint drills, these exercises are deeper and more extensive in terms of organization, tasks and command.”
China claims 85 percent of the contested waters and attempted earlier this year to build a series of man-made islands and waterways across the region, which had been intended for military use.
But in July, a UN-backed tribunal, in a case brought by the Philippines, ruled that China had no legal basis for claiming ownership of the disputed waters.
Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims over the islands and their surrounding waters.
At the time of the ruling, Beijing claimed that China would take a “decisive response” if another country took “any provocative action against China’s security interests based on the award”.