Trump: 'You Never Want to Do Anything to Unite Russia and China. Well, They're United Now'

By Susan Jones | July 28, 2016 | 8:48 AM EDT

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to the crowd after speaking during a campaign rally at Lackawanna College, Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Scranton, Pa. (Jake Danna Stevens/The Times & Tribune via AP)

( - One day after Republican Donald Trump warned that China and Russia "have never been closer," China's military announced on Thursday it will hold joint exercises with Russian forces in the South China Sea.

According to the Associated Press, the air and sea drills will be held sometime in September and are aimed at deepening relations between the two militaries and boosting their capacity to respond to maritime threats, ministry spokesman Col. Yang Yujun said at a monthly news briefing. He said the exercises weren't targeted at any third parties.

At his Wednesday news conference, Trump said as president, he "would be so much better for U.S.-Russian relations. You can't be worse," he added.

"Hey, look, when I was a young man studying history and studying all of these things that I've always found fascinating, one thing that I've always heard is you never want to do anything to unite Russia and China. Well, they're united now, in a true sense. They've never been closer. They're selling oil to China. We forced them into this position."

Trump said he's "not going to be an adversary" of China. "No, not at all. I have tenants from China. I have the biggest bank in the world from China paying me rent. I mean, I have great relationships with China.

"I'm not blaming China for getting away with murder. I'm blaming, our leadership is incompetent. We don't know what we're doing. I don't blame -- I respect China. Hey, if China can get away with trade deficits every year of hundreds of billions of dollars -- if they can get away with that, my hat's off to them.

"I have no problem with China. I have a problem with our incompetent leadership allowing that to happen. And I believe that Hillary Clinton is even more bought and paid for than Barack Obama. I think it will get worse. It's going to be four more years of Obama, which is unacceptable to a lot of people, you see that. But I believe that Hillary Clinton will be worse than Obama."

Earlier this month, China rejected an international tribunal's ruling that its expansive claim to the South China Sea had no legal basis. The ruling by the five-member panel at The Hague was a victory for the Philippines, which challenged China's territorial aggression, including building islands where none existed for military purposes.

Chinese ships have challenged vessels from the U.S., the Philippines and other nations in the disputed waters.

Following the tribunal's ruling, China said it would launch regular air patrols over the South China Sea while continuing its construction of man-made islands.

Six governments in the region all claim territory in the South China Sea. China says all disputes should be settled bilaterally through negotiations.

(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report about China's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.)

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