BEIJING – China is conducting military exercises in the disputed South China Sea at the same time as US President Joe Biden’s visits to South Korea and Japan, which are mainly aimed at countering the alleged threat from Beijing.

The Maritime Security Administration in the southern island province of Hainan said the exercises began on Thursday and will continue until Monday.

It says other planes and ships will be barred from entering the area, but did not provide more details. China claims the South China Sea almost entirely, and the decisive waterway has become a potential hotbed of conflict in Asia.

The United States does not take a foreign position on sovereignty, but insists on the right to operate freely at sea and often passes warships near the militarized Chinese islands in the area, called “freedom of navigation.”

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China regularly protests against such missions, calling them deliberate provocations that threaten peace and stability. To defend his demands, he built runways and other military infrastructure on top of artificial islands built on coral reefs and atolls.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims to the South China Sea. The Philippine Coast Guard said Friday it has set up outposts on three islands in disputed waters, and Beijing is likely to be opposed.

Since the beginning of the month, the first Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning has been carrying out a mission in the Sea of ​​Japan, which the Defense Ministry called “regular training” aimed at improving productivity in line with relevant international law and practice, rather than targeting either side.

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China also on Wednesday held a pair of H-6 bombers with long-range nuclear capabilities, Chinese media reported.

While in Japan, Biden will meet on Tuesday with other leaders of the Indo-Pacific Strategic Alliance, known as the Quad, a group that includes Australia, India and Japan.

The four countries share concerns about China’s growing regional tenacity and increasingly combat-ready armed forces.

China views the group as part of a US-led attempt to thwart its economic and political rise and thwart attempts to intimidate self-governing Taiwan into accepting its demand to recognize Beijing’s rule.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized what he called negative actions by Washington and Tokyo against Beijing during a video call with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimos Hayashi.

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“Attention and vigilance are caused by the fact that even before the American leader left for the meeting, the so-called joint Japanese-American anti-Chinese rhetoric is already raising dust,” Wang said, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. .

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