South China Sea: China warns ships to stay away as it holds drills near Paracel Islands

China's maritime safety administration orders other ships to stay away from the region.

China says to hold drills with Russia in South China Sea
Chinese and Russian naval vessels participate in the Joint Sea-2014 naval drill outside Shanghai on the East China Sea Reuters

China's maritime safety administration said on Wednesday that Beijing will carry out military drills in the South China Sea on Thursday and ordered all other vessels to stay away from the area.

The administration gave coordinates for an area south of the Chinese island province of Hainan and north-west of the Paracel Islands. These islands are controlled by China but are claimed by both Vietnam and Taiwan.

Apart from prohibiting other ships from entering the region, the authorities did not reveal any other details. When asked about this move, the Defence Ministry of China did not immediately respond to the request.

China frequently holds military exercises in the disputed waters. The latest exercises come less than a week when a US navy destroyer sailed near the Paracel Islands and warned the Chinese warships to leave the area.

According to the US officials, China has placed surface-to-air missiles in Woody Island, its largest presence on the Paracels. It also has a runway there.

Apart from China, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have rival claims in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. But Beijing claims the whole of South China Sea.

China vows to protect its sovereignty as it argues that it can do what it wants on the islands that have been Chinese territory since ancient times.