China has intensified its military presence in the South China sea after a series of landings by its aircraft, including those in the disputed Spratly Islands.
The People’s Liberation Army’s China Daily reported Wednesday that the People’s Navy and its airborne forces have conducted three landings in the contested Spratlys in recent weeks, as part of a broader buildup in the region.
Ahead of the latest landings, Chinese officials said in a joint statement that they will conduct a sea drill this week in the Spratlies and other waters.
The statement came amid the latest push by Beijing to assert sovereignty over the South Chinese Sea, with the United States and others warning of further escalation of tensions in the area.
The United States has long maintained that China has built up its artificial islands in the waterway, but it has consistently denied any such activity.
China has also repeatedly said its artificial structures are intended for military purposes.
The PLA has conducted numerous military exercises in the waters, and last month conducted its largest ever drill, in which thousands of troops and aircraft participated.
China claims almost all of the South and East China seas as its own.
The Chinese government has consistently accused the United Nations of being biased in its approach toward the South, and it has accused Washington of deliberately exaggerating the extent of China’s claims in the sea.
The U.N. has said it has no plans to convene an international tribunal to resolve the territorial dispute.
In its statement Wednesday, China said the drill would also take place in the Paracels Islands, which the United Kingdom and other countries claim as part the Falkland Islands chain.