VLADIVOSTOK, Russia—Russia and China started a large-scale joint naval exercise in the Sea of Japan on July 8, partly to send a message to Japan.
Nineteen warships and about 10 aircraft from the two countries were scheduled to take part in “Joint Sea-2013,” the name of the exercise off the coast of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, until July 10.
One maneuver will be a rescue attempt of hostages on a ship hijacked by pirates. High-level anti-submarine and anti-aircraft activities using shared communication equipment will also be performed.
The joint exercise comes at a time when Russia wants to heighten its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and China faces the growing possibility of a conflict with Japan and the United States over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Japan administers the islands but China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands, also claims sovereignty.
“If armed forces from China and Russia conduct a (joint) military maneuver in close cooperation in the Sea of Japan, it will have a certain level of threat to Japan, which has a dispute with China over the Diaoyu Islands and one with Russia over the Northern Territories,” Chinese media quoted Rear Adm. Yin Zhuo, director of the Chinese Navy Advisory Committee for Informatization, as saying.
Yin also noted that China sent a commando unit to the joint exercise. “There is a high possibility that the two countries will conduct a maneuver to capture islands,” he said.
Russia and China held their first joint naval exercise in 2012, off the coast of Qingdao in eastern China.
For this year’s exercise, China sent seven warships, including the guided missile destroyer Shenyang, from its North Sea Fleet, headquartered in Qingdao, and its South Sea Fleet, based in Zhanjiang in southern China. It is the most ships that China has sent to an overseas military maneuver.
Russia dispatched the guided missile cruiser Varyag, the flagship of the country’s Pacific Fleet, and other vessels.
“Relations among China, South Korea and Japan are complicated,’’ Sergey Grebenyuk, a political scientist in the Far East province of Primorsky Krai, told a local news agency. “Through the latest exercise with Russia, China can show its presence in Asia by flaunting its power. Russia is also adjusting its foreign policies in Asia while considering the interests of China.”
However, Russia also regards neighboring China, whose economic and military powers continue to grow, as a potential threat.
By holding the joint naval exercise with China, the Russian armed forces can show its presence to Japan and the United States and view in detail the equipment and skills of the Chinese forces.
In summer 2012, Russia took part for the first time in the multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, which was held off Hawaii with the participation of Japan, the United States and other countries.
In the Japan-Russia summit held in Moscow in April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to hold a bilateral meeting of Cabinet members in charge of diplomacy and defense issues to heighten mutual trust in the military field.
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