China, Russia to hold joint military drills in South China Sea

China's Defense Ministry say the drills were aimed at strengthening their cooperation and were not aimed at any other country.

China and Russia will jointly hold "routine" naval drills in disputed waters of the South China Sea in September, China's Defence Ministry said in a news conference on Thursday.

The announcement comes after an arbitration court in the Hague ruled out that there was "no legal basis" to Beijing's vast claims in the South China Sea and criticised its environmental destruction there.

The tribunal ruling infuriated Beijing, who rejected the verdict and said it would not affect its claims.

"This is a routine exercise between the two armed forces, aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership," China's defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told Reuters.

"The exercise is not directed against third parties," he added.

Both China and Russia are veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council. They have supported each other on different occasions with similar views on many major issues including the crisis in Syria which eventually put them at odds with the United States and Western Europe.

In 2015, they organised joint military drills in the Sea of Japan and the Mediterranean Sea.

China claims almost 90 percent of the South China Sea while on other hand, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim to have rights in parts of the sea.

The United States has been repeatedly blamed by China for fuelling tension in the disputed regions through its military patrols. But the United States denies taking sides in the territorial disputes.

The United States sent naval vessels close to Chinese-claimed areas to assert the principle of freedom of navigation.