A major joint naval exercise by China and Russia ended on April 27 having sent a clear message that the two powers are determined to challenge the U.S. military buildup in the seas south of China.
The six days of war games were the first large-scale maneuvers involving the Chinese and Russians in recent years and involved unprecedented cooperation on joint war plans.
They were conducted in the Yellow Sea to the west of South Korea, an area where the United States and South Korea have also staged a series of joint drills recently.
According to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, China has conducted 17 joint naval exercises since 2002, but all of the previous drills were either search-and-rescue missions or simulated rescues of ships attacked by pirates.
The joint exercise with Russia was the “first, full-fledged naval exercises to prepare for war,” according to Li Jie, a Chinese navy captain.
“The series of maneuvers involved in the exercises involve high levels of secrecy,” Chinese Rear Adm. Yin Zhuo told The Asahi Shimbun. “Only armed forces that put faith in each other can carry out such sophisticated exercises.”
China deployed some of its newest hardware, including Song-class submarines that have seldom been used in previous joint exercises.
China’s state-run broadcaster aired footage of the flagship of its fleet, the guided missile destroyer Harbin, firing live ammunition on April 26 and 27.
Washington is strengthening its presence in the region by deploying Marines in Australia and holding joint exercises with the forces of the Philippines, which is involved in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.
Sources in the Chinese military said the choice of the Yellow Sea as the location for the maneuvers was intended as a counter to the United States and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan.
Russia also appears keen to put a brake on U.S. influence by demonstrating its close military ties with China, a former rival.
It considers a U.S. missile defense system deployed in Europe as a challenge to its national security and, although Moscow has been trying to secure a guarantee from Washington that the defense system is not aimed at undermining Russia’s nuclear capability, talks on the issue are deadlocked.
Russia is also eager to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, where the United States and China are vying with each other. With the eastern city of Vladivostok due to host the meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in September, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is due to be inaugurated as president on May 7, told the State Duma in April that the development of Siberia and the Far East was a key strategic aim.
(This article was written by Kenji Minemura in Beijing and Hideki Soejima in Moscow.)
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