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The United States and China will begin joint military drills in the South China sea this week, as they prepare to hold naval exercises for the first time in a year, according to a statement released by the Pentagon on Monday.
The drills are expected to take place this week in the waters of the Paracel Islands in the Spratlys, where China claims sovereignty.
The U.S. and China have been locked in a dispute over the Sprats for years, and tensions escalated dramatically this year after Beijing seized two Chinese-claimed islands in the East China Sea.
China has consistently denied that it is taking sides in the territorial dispute, but has threatened to use its newly-developed long-range ballistic missile defense systems to counter U.N. sanctions on Beijing.
The exercises will likely involve about 10,000 American troops, according the statement from the Pentagon, which also said it would conduct a series of maritime exercises in the area.
It is unclear whether the exercises will be related to the South Sea conflict, but the drills are likely part of a broader effort by the U.D.P.K. to increase its military strength in the region and expand the U-turn in its stance on the region.
The United Nations has been calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.R.N.-designated war vessels from the Spratts.