China to hold military drills in South China Sea
China will hold military drills in the disputed South China Sea, ahead of a ruling by an international court on a challenge to its maritime claims.
They will be held in waters around the Paracel Islands, said a statement by the maritime safety administration.
China regularly holds such exercises even though Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the seas.
But tensions are running high ahead of the ruling expected next week.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, Netherlands, has said it will issue a decision on 12 July on a challenge made by the Philippines to China's claims in the strategic and resource-rich region.
However, China has consistently boycotted the proceedings, insisting that the panel has no authority to rule in the case.
The drills will be held from 5-11 July, with ships prohibited from entering the waters in that time, the Chinese statement said.
What is the South China Sea dispute?
Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years.
Its islets and waters are claimed in part or in whole by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
China has backed its expansive claims with island-building and naval patrols, while the US says it opposes restrictions on freedom of navigation and unlawful sovereignty claims by all sides.
The frictions have sparked concern that the area is becoming a flashpoint with possible global consequences.