BEIJING: Chinese state-run media lauded Beijing and Moscow’s increasing closeness Tuesday, dismissing Western suspicion over the relationship as the two countries began their first joint naval exercises in European waters.
The drills, involving nine Russian and Chinese warships and set to last 11 days, were launched at a Russian naval base near the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, Moscow’s defence ministry said late Monday.
It is the People’s Liberation Army’s farthest naval exercise from China’s home waters.
The vessels will sail for the Mediterranean on Tuesday, China’s official Xinhua news agency said, adding that the drills “clearly demonstrate that both countries will work with each other to safeguard peace and post-war international order”.
The commentary hit out at the West, saying that the exercises show “those suspicious of such cooperation” that “closer China-Russia relations can contribute to a better world”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Moscow last week to attend a massive military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany.
But the event was snubbed by many Western leaders, who blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for the current crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian defense ministry statement said the naval exercise was “not directed against a third party and has nothing to do with the political situation in the region”, adding it would “further deepen the friendly and practical cooperation between the two countries”.
The West may have cold shouldered Russia, but relations between Moscow and Beijing have become increasingly warm in recent months and years.
Xi and Putin have developed strong personal ties and their countries, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, often take similar stances there on divisive issues such as the conflict in Syria.
“The West should ask themselves whether they did something irksome to both Russia and China, whose close relationship is disturbing them so much,” China’s Global Times, affiliated with the official Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, wrote in an editorial.
“Despite cultural differences, both nations, unlike the US and Japan’s ‘master and servant’ ties, are on an equal footing.”
But the paper also cautioned against any type of formal military pact between the two countries, which were allies and then rivals during the Cold War.
“History keeps reminding China and Russia that an alliance is not in the best interest of both sides,” the editorial said.
Beijing and Moscow’s joint exercises came as two Japanese destroyers and one of the Philippines’ newest warships began historic naval exercises in the flashpoint South China Sea on Tuesday, showcasing a deepening alliance in an area where China has been increasingly assertive.
The day-long war games are the first bilateral naval exercises between the former World War II enemies.
Beijing is planning a huge military parade later this year to commemorate victory over Japanese forces as well as the broader defeat of the Axis powers, with Russian troops expected to participate for the first time.
A final date for the parade has not been set.