China sends advanced warships to contested S China Sea for drills

China sends advanced warships to contested S China Sea for drills
China is sending some of its most advanced naval assets to the South China Sea for a scheduled exercise this month. Those include a new guided missile destroyer.

The exercise will be focusing on anti-missile warfare and other tasks, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. It added that among the ships sent were missile destroyer Hefei, missile frigate Sanya and supply ship Honghu along with missile destroyers Lanzhou and Guangzhou, and missile frigate Yuli, which are currently tasked with other duties.

The report said it was routine and didn't specify whether it would be held near disputed islands that several regional nations, including China, consider their territory.

Beijing is claiming sovereignty over a big chunk of the sea, which is a major trading route and is believed to be rich in minerals. Contesting claims have been made by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

China is furthering its presence in the region by reclaiming artificial islands and turning building infrastructure on them, including airstrips capable of launching warplanes. It says its primary focus for such actions is civilian and is aimed at better weather forecast, emergency response and other crucial missions.

The US is rejecting China's claims and challenges Beijing by conducting so-called freedom of navigation missions. Washington sends military ships and warplanes through the space, which China considers under its sovereignty.