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China stages live-firing drills in Tonkin Gulf amid tensions

In this Monday, Aug. 1, 2016 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a missile is launched from a navy ship during a live ammunition drill in the East China Sea. China's navy has fired dozens of missiles and torpedoes during exercises in the East China Sea that come amid heightened maritime tensions in the region, underscoring Beijing's determination to back up its sovereignty claims with force if needed. The live-fire drills that began Monday follow China's strident rejection of an international arbitration panel's ruling last month that invalidated Beijing's claims to a vast swath of the South China Sea. Wu Dengfeng/Xinhua via AP

BEIJING — China's coast guard launched live-firing exercises in the Tonkin Gulf on Monday, the latest in a series of military drills that come amid renewed tensions among disputants to territory in the South China Sea.

The Maritime Safety Administration said ships and boats were barred from the area between its southern island province of Hainan and the northern coast of Vietnam from Monday to Wednesday.

China's navy and air force have held a series of drills in surrounding waters since an international arbitration panel issued a ruling last month invalidating China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. China angrily rejected the ruling and said it would begin flying regular air patrols over the strategic waterway while continuing to develop airstrips, harbors and other infrastructure of military value on man-made islands it controls in the disputed Spratly group.

On Sunday, China said its planes and ships held war games in the Sea of Japan last week, during which it deployed its latest-generation frigate.

Beijing didn't say who the latest military drills were targeting or why the Sea of Japan was chosen as the location. However, China has grown increasingly assertive over its claim to a chain of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan, recently dispatching more than a dozen coast guard vessels to the area as Chinese fishing vessels swarmed the surrounding waters.

China also plans joint naval exercises with Russia in the South China Sea next month in a move criticized by the U.S. as harming regional stability.

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