Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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Chinese Navy Holds Military Drill in Disputed South China Sea

China Navy Exercise

(Photo : Getty Images/China Photos) Chinese officials say the ongoing exercise is intended to test the country's naval combat readiness.

China's Navy on Wednesday commenced a ten-day military drill around the island of Hainan. The naval drill is being carried out at a time when China's territorial claims in the South and East China Sea are being challenged by neighboring countries.

China Daily reported that civilian ships are prohibited from entering the waters where the military drills are being held.

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Admiral Scott Swift, the newly designated American commander for the Pacific fleet, recently headed a surveillance sortie over the disputed areas in the South China Sea. Such sorties are regularly conducted by U.S. forces and have been a constant source for irritation in Beijing. Chinese leaders have warned that these flights are damaging the relationship between the two countries.

The Philippines has also been active in pursuing its territorial claims in the South China Sea. Manila decided to go ahead and fix a military ship that has been docked in the Second Thomas Shoal despite objections from China, according to The Diplomat. The disputed shoal is known as the Ren'ai Reef in China, while Ayungin Shoal is the name used to describe it in the Philippines. The grounded ship has served as an outpost for a small detachment of Philippine marines for the past 16 years.

Philippine troops also participated in separate military exercises with American and Japanese soldiers in June.

Japan released an annual defense paper on Tuesday which Beijing has criticized as provocative, according to Asia Times. The report relayed Japan's concerns over China's exploration projects near the disputed territories in the East China Sea. The Japanese suspect that China will use the project as a cover to keep an eye on the disputed islands.

However, China's People's Liberation Army have revealed that the ongoing naval drill has nothing to do with the recent events unfolding in the Pacific region. National Defense University professor Zhu Chenghu, who is also a major general, said that it's "understandable" for observers to make that assumption.

He added that holding military exercises takes time and a lot of planning. However, he admitted that the drills have an objective, although he said it is not targeting any one in particular nation.

PLA researcher Zhang Junshe said that the ongoing exercise is simply to test China's navy's combat readiness.

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