China has fired dozens of missiles into a disputed area near the South China Sea, the latest sign of escalating tensions between Beijing and its neighbors.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the military exercises were part of the country’s “anti-terror campaign”.
The moves come as the United States and its allies in the region take a tougher line against Beijing over its disputed claims to the area, a key shipping lane.
China said it would also use the exercise to reinforce its “peaceful” development plans for the area.
The drills came amid mounting tensions between the United Nations and China over a disputed territorial sea, as the country ramps up its military presence in the area and deploys warships.
China is deeply involved in the international community’s dispute resolution process, which it says aims to resolve disputes through diplomacy.
It is also keen to gain more influence over the UN Security Council by hosting the United Nation’s chief for the first time.
China also has its own regional affairs, and has long complained about the lack of cooperation with the United Kingdom and Australia in its territorial disputes.
But China has recently sought to bolster its own maritime assertiveness by deploying military ships in international waters.
In recent weeks, Beijing has deployed a pair of warships, a warship and a patrol vessel near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South Pacific.
China has long insisted it has the right to deploy military forces in the contested South China sea, but has been criticised by regional powers for its military buildup in the sea and for deploying its own warships and warships near its coast.
A recent survey by the United World Centre for International Relations, a think-tank in the United Arab Emirates, showed that China’s naval strength had grown by 1,500 percent in the past five years.
Its maritime presence in disputed waters has also been growing since it declared its claims in the East China Sea in 2013.
China last year also deployed its first aircraft carrier and launched its first unmanned submarine to the South Chinese Sea.
The military exercises took place in waters around the disputed islands in the Spratlys, the Philippines and Vietnam, said a statement by the ministry, which did not identify the countries involved.
A spokesman for the Philippine Defence Forces said the drills were “a peaceful exercise and are part of an anti-terror strategy”.
In Vietnam, a defence ministry spokesman said the exercises were “in response to China’s provocative actions in the disputed South China Seas”.
“We will continue to take necessary measures to protect our sovereignty and security,” said Vietnam’s defence minister, Thanh Dinh Diem.
China and Vietnam are neighbours with overlapping claims to vast swaths of the South and East China Seas.