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China and Russia to Hold Joint Military Drill in Strategic Waters Near Japan

Russia will send troops from its air force and navy to take part in a China-led joint military exercise in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea, the Chinese defence ministry announced on Saturday.

Without giving the date of the “Northern/Interaction-2023” exercise, organised by the People’s Liberation Army’s Northern Theatre Command, the ministry said the drills would focus on “maintaining the security of strategic maritime corridors”.

“This joint exercise aims at enhancing the level of strategic cooperation between the Chinese and Russian militaries, as well as strengthening both sides’ ability to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability when dealing with various security challenges,” it said in a statement.

The drills were announced last month by military leaders of the two countries. Saturday’s statement confirms the involvement of Russian naval and army forces and the exercise’s location.

Defence experts said the joint drills could be seen as a clear response to Washington’s attempts to work more closely with regional allies Japan and South Korea to prepare for a possible conflict with Beijing over Taiwan, posing a potential threat to both China and Russia.

Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor, said the strategic maritime corridors mentioned by the Chinese defence ministry included three straits near Japan – the Tsushima, Soya and Tsugaru straits – that could become key strongholds for the United States and its allies to block China and Russia from accessing the Western Pacific.

“In order to break through the possible barriers of any potential risks, it’s very important for the PLA and its Russian counterpart to hold regular drills,” Song said.

Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Beijing-based Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank, said the US was not only working with Japan and South Korea but also other allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to try to isolate Russia and China.

“The sour ties between China and the US, and the US and Russia, are pushing Beijing and Moscow closer together,” Zhou said. “More isolation of China and Russia will only push the PLA and Russian militaries to conduct more joint military exercises.”

Last month, PLA and Russian forces held a two-day joint aerial strategic patrol in airspace over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan – their sixth such drill since 2019.

China and Russia have held regular military drills since 2002. Early joint naval drills took place closer to Russian waters, including the northern Sea of Japan and the Peter the Great Gulf.

In September, the PLA sent a flotilla led by its largest destroyer, the Type 055, to join the Russia-organised Vostok 2022 war games in the Sea of Japan.

Sino-Japanese ties were strained at the time, with Tokyo saying five PLA missiles fell into its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) during PLA drills mounted in response to former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.

Beijing denied the missiles landed in the EEZ, saying the two countries had not agreed on the zone’s limits.

Source : SCMP