Chinese navy commander Admiral Wu Shengli noted the importance both sides place on military-to-military relations and maritime security in opening talks yesterday at navy headquarters in Beijing, but he ignored last week's worldwide tribunal ruling against Beijing's claim to ownership of virtually all the sea.
China has refused to recognize last week's ruling by an arbitration court in the Hague invalidating China's vast claims in the South China Sea and did not take part in the proceedings.
China has boycotted the arbitration and said it would ignore the ruling but some observers say the verdict could prompt Beijing to start reclaiming land and building facilities on Scarborough Shoal, a South China Sea outcrop also claimed by the Philippines.
A protester from a local pro-China party chants slogans against the United States supporting an worldwide court ruling that denied China's claims to the South China Sea, outside U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, China July 14, 2016.
The announcement of the drills came in the middle of a three-day visit to China by the U.S. Navy's top admiral, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. The area off the east coast of China's island province of Hainan will host military exercises, the administration said on its website, adding that entrance was "prohibited".
In this undated photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
Washington has conducted so-called freedom of navigation operations approximately every three months near China's man-made islands in the South China Sea.
"It has not, whether in the past or now, and in the future there won't be a problem as long as nobody plays tricks", Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of the powerful Central Military Commission, was quoted as saying.
China says the dispute concerns worldwide law on territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation rather than fishing resources and that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), to which it and the Philippines are signatories, does not apply.
In a further show of defiance, Beijing followed the ruling by landing two civilian aircraft on new airstrips on disputed Mischief and Subi reefs and dispatched its coast guard to block a Philippine fishing boat from reaching a contested shoal.
China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than US$5 trillion of trade moves annually.
But he also said China would never give up efforts to resolve the South China Sea dispute peacefully - despite the "many negative factors now" - through talks and negotiations, and also to manage risks through rules-based mechanisms.
China, on the other hand, says the opposite: talks are OK, but the ruling is not.
China has declared sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, despite contested claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and other island countries in the region, according to Russia Today.
Could the United States go to war with China over the South China Sea dispute?
"We hope that other countries will not take this opportunity to threaten China and (instead) work with China to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not let it become the origin of a war", he said.