China said on Monday it will close access to a part of the South China Sea for military drills this week, amidst tensions over an international tribunal ruling against its vast claims in the disputed waters.
China's maritime administration said on its website that an area off the coast of China's island province of Hainan will be used for the military exercises from Tuesday to Thursday.
The entrance to this particular zone, which is claimed by China as well as several other neighbouring states, will be a prohibited area during this span. This area of the sea is some distance from the Paracel islands and even further away from the Spratlys.
The announcement of the military drill came in the middle of a three-day visit of US Navy's top admiral to China to discuss the South China Sea dispute. They were supposed to discuss ways to increase interaction between the two militaries.
China rejected the ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration last week that said that there was no legal basis for Beijing's claims to much of the sea. Beijing also refused to take part in the arbitration.
However, Philippines, which initiated the suit against Beijing, welcomed the decision.
China pressurised the Asean bloc of South-east Asian nations not to issue a joint statement on the ruling and said that islands in the South China Sea are "China's inherent territory". It also warned that if they feel threatened, they could declare an air defense identification zone over the waters.
Just a few days before the arbitration court ruling, Beijing held military drills in the disputed South China Sea.