China will hold naval exercises in the South China Sea on Saturday, its maritime authority said, after a week of recrimination from Western powers over its military ambitions across the Pacific region.
The exercises, set to take place in the sea less than 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) off the coast of south China’s Hainan province, come as the United States leads warnings over China’s growing military and economic presence in an area spanning from the South China Sea to the Pacific Islands.
“Military exercises will be held and entry is prohibited,” the Maritime Safety administration said in a statement Thursday, warning that an area of roughly 100 square kilometers would be closed off to maritime traffic for five hours.
China routinely conducts similar drills in waters near its shores, with an exercise in another area of the sea near Hainan scheduled for next week, as well as multiple others along the country’s eastern coastline.
But the latest exercises come as Beijing faces a growing chorus of warnings from the United States and Western allies over its naval ambitions, which critics say are a beachhead for a wider attempt to change the regional balance of power.