China says Sino-Russian naval exercises, which begin on Wednesday, are aimed at “further deepening cooperation between the sides” whose unofficial anti-Western alliance has grown in strength since Moscow invaded Ukraine.
The drills will be held off the coast of Zhejiang province south of Shanghai until next Tuesday, according to a brief statement released Monday by China’s Eastern Theater Command under the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army.
“This joint exercise aims to demonstrate the determination and capability of both sides to jointly respond to threats to maritime security… and further deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership of the new era of China-Russia coordination,” the statement said .
The Russian Defense Ministry said the missile cruiser Varyag, the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov and two corvettes from the Russian Pacific Fleet would take part in the manoeuvres.
The ministry said the Chinese Navy plans to use several surface warships and a submarine for the exercise, and planes from the sides will also take part.
The Chinese side initially gave no information about which units would participate.
Despite decades of mutual distrust, China and Russia have stepped up such drills as part of their foreign policy focus on opposing the US-led liberal Western political order.
China has refused to criticize or even label Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, has condemned Western sanctions against Moscow and accused Washington and NATO of provoking Vladimir Putin into action.
China declared a borderless friendship with Russia just weeks before the invasion and remains a major customer for Russian oil and gas, which it buys at a deep discount, although it is not known to have sold any military hardware to Moscow.
In November, Russian Air Force Tu-95 bombers and Chinese H-6K bombers flew joint patrols over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. As part of the exercises, the Russian bombers landed in China for the first time, and the Chinese bombers flew to an air base in Russia.
In September, China dispatched more than 2,000 troops along with more than 300 military vehicles, 21 warplanes and three warships to take part in a wide-ranging joint exercise with Russia.
Russia, in turn, has been heavily supportive of China amid tensions with the US over Taiwan.
China also sent a squadron of naval vessels to the western Pacific through straits near Japan last week as Beijing blew up Tokyo’s adoption of a new national security strategy that placed itself on a more offensive footing – largely as a result of the perceived threat from China .
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