Beijng will hold joint naval drills with Russia in the South China Sea in September, the Chinese Defence Ministry said on Thursday. The exercises will be held in the "relevant sea and air of the South China Sea", ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said, adding that they will "consolidate and develop" bilateral relations and "enhance the capabilities of the two navies to jointly deal with maritime security threats", according to AFP.

With this move, the defence networks of a number of world powers could be in the strategic region at the same time as the United States, too, has been sending its warships to the disputed territory. Yang said the countries conduct such joint exercises regularly "on land and sea", and that they "contribute to peace and stability".

The announcement from the Chinese Defence Ministry follows an international tribunal's ruling that Beijing had "no historical rights" over the South China Sea. Beijing, however, called the verdict "ill-founded" and said its "territorial sovereignty and marine rights" in the seas will not be affected by it. It had also threatened to establish an air defence zone over the disputed waters. Last week, China held a three-day military exercise there.