BEIJING: China and Russia will conduct their first-ever joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea within weeks, Beijing’s military said Thursday as it extends its reach and the pair’s relationship becomes ever closer.
The live-fire exercises, set for mid-May, will involve nine surface ships in total, with three from China, military spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a monthly briefing.
The Chinese vessels involved are currently participating in international anti-piracy escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast, he said.
“What needs to be stressed is that this joint exercise is not targeting any third party and is not related to regional security,” he insisted.
The main purpose of the exercises was protecting the safety of navigation in “far seas”, he said, with training to include maritime defence and replenishment, joint escort, “as well as the actual use and firing of weapons”.
The drills are also aimed at “pragmatic cooperation between the two sides” and improving “the capability of the two navies to jointly deal with maritime threats”, he added.
Relations between China and Russia have been alternately close and distant over the decades going back to the days of the Soviet Union, but have been on an upswing for the past quarter century.
Diplomatically, they often take similar stances at the United Nations where they are both permanent members of the Security Council.
Militarily they have conducted frequent joint exercises, while economically China hopes to exploit Russia’s vast energy resources, and Moscow is seeking to diversify its markets amid western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.