Russia and China have launched joint military exercises in the South China Sea, the site of heated territorial disputes between Beijing and its neighbors.
The eight-day Joint Sea-2016 exercises, which began on September 12, simulate "seizing and controlling" islands and shoals in the area, Chinese naval spokesman Liang Yang was quoted as saying.
Surface ships, submarines, aircraft, amphibious armor, and marine troops will participate.
The exercises are part of an annual effort to "consolidate and advance the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, and deepen friendly and practical cooperation between the two militaries," Yang said.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that ,as long as the drills were not threatening or provocative and were conducted in accordance with international law, "there's nothing that precludes them from doing that."
Joint drills have become increasingly common in recent years with Beijing and Moscow united in their suspicion of Washington and its allies in the region.
Tensions have been running high in the area after China claimed sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea and began building a network of artificial islands with military infrastructure.
The United States has repeatedly sent warships into the region to dispute China’s claims and to keep international shipping lanes open.