The Chinese navy will soon launch a drill in waters near Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang province, as part of its annual exercise plan, the Defense Ministry said on Monday.
The ministry made the announcement on its website in response to reports saying that the navy will conduct a six-day, live ammunition drill starting on Tuesday in the East China Sea.
The People's Liberation Army issued two announcements on July 2 prohibiting all vessels from entering its designated exercise area during the period, and urging them to follow naval ships' instructions to guarantee safety.
According to the announcements, the exercise area is a bit bigger than before, but it is not in the disputed waters between China and its neighbors, and it is far away from the Huangyan and Diaoyu islands.
This is not the first such drill in the East China Sea. In July 2010, the PLA launched a six-day, live-fire drill shortly before a joint drill between the United States and the Republic of Korea in the Yellow Sea, close to East China's Shandong province.
The forthcoming drill is not a counteraction against the ongoing one between the Philippines and the US, said analysts. But it still drew attention due to the intensive drills conducted by the US and its Asian allies recently as well as Tokyo's plan of "nationalizing" part of the Diaoyu Islands.
The live-fire drill is part of an annual exercise conducted in the East China Sea, regularly held around the same time and in the same area, Song Xiaojun, a military affairs commentator, told China National Radio.
It's impossible for any navy to temporarily organize a drill to counteract the others since it usually needs at least six months to prepare for it, Meng Xiangqing, deputy director of the Strategic Research Institute at the National Defense University of the PLA, said.
Considering ocean and weather conditions, Asia-Pacific countries, including China, often carry out naval drills between May and July, he said. "Most exercises are to improve campaign capability at first, but may also demonstrate strength and sovereignty."
On Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's statement that his government was negotiating with a "private owner" to "nationalize" part of the Diaoyu Islands triggered a strong reaction over sovereignty from China.
On the same day, China's Foreign Ministry responded on its website that China's territory is not allowed to be bought or sold by anyone, and the country will continue to take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the islands' sovereignty.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin on Monday reiterated the stance at the daily news conference, saying that the ministry and the Chinese embassy in Japan on Saturday lodged solemn representations to Tokyo over its latest move.
Indisputable historical and jurisprudential evidence shows that "the Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islets have been inherent parts of Chinese territory since ancient times", he said.