China and Russia will hold routine joint naval exercises in the South China Sea in September. Beijing's Defence Ministry spokesman said that drills will be carried out in the relevant sea and air of the South China Sea. He said exercise is routine and does not target any third party.
The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in the contested waters after an arbitration court in the Hague ruled recently that China does not have historic rights to the South China Sea. China rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the case.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest played down the significance of the exercises even though he conceded that the South China Sea was "a sensitive diplomatic topic right now". China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than 5 trillion dollars of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims. Russia has been a strong backer of China's stance on the arbitration case, which was brought by the Philippines.

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