On Friday, Beijing announced that China along with some southeast Asian states will hold joint maritime drills in the South China Sea region for the first time, next week.
“As we speak, the navies of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are en route to Zhanjiang in China for the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise,” this will help to “build trust, confidence,” Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s defence minister, said.
The drills will help ease the tensions among China and southeast Asian countries, which hold conflicting claims over the South China Sea territories. The maritime disputes among the Asian countries have revolved around fishing rights and claims to areas with potential for future oil and gas exploitation.
For its part, the United States has been closely monitoring this situation with concern.
“No single nation can rewrite the international rules of the road, and we expect all nations — large and small — to respect those rules,” U.S. Secretary of State Jim Mattis commented Friday, referring to China’s efforts to build structures on the small islands located in the South China Sea.
Mattis' remarks come at a time when China is seeking to exert a leadership role within the region and of intense economic competition between the United States and China, which escalated to a trade-war at U.S. President Donald Trump’s behest.