China, Russia to launch joint air, sea exercises in Sea of ​​Japan

By Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese naval flotilla set out on Sunday to join Russian naval and air forces in the Sea of ​​Japan in an exercise aimed at “safeguarding the security of strategic waterways”, according to China’s Defense Ministry.

Dubbed ‘North/Interaction-2023’, the exercise marks heightened military cooperation between China and Russia since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and comes as Beijing continues to push back against US calls to resume military communication .

The Chinese flotilla, consisting of five warships and four embarked helicopters, left the eastern port of Qingdao and will meet Russian forces in a “predetermined area”, the ministry said on its official WeChat account on Sunday.

On Saturday, the ministry said Russian naval and air forces will take part in the exercise which will take place in the Sea of ​​Japan.

It would be the first time that the two Russian forces have taken part in the drill, military observers quoted by the state-run Global Times newspaper as saying.

Gromkiy and Sovershenniy, two Russian warships taking part in the Sea of ​​Japan exercise, had earlier this month conducted separate training with the Chinese Navy in Shanghai on formation movements, communication and rescues at sea.

Before calling at the financial hub of Shanghai, the same ships had passed Taiwan and Japan, prompting Taipei and Tokyo to watch for Russian warships.

Days before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a “limitless” partnership which they said was aimed at countering US influence.

A notable area of ​​the partnership is military cooperation.

When Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu met with Russian Navy chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov in Beijing this month, the two sides reiterated their pledges to strengthen military ties.

Chinese Joint Chiefs of Staff Liu Zhenli and Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov made the same promise in a video call in June.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Jamie Freed)

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