645 words - May 4, 2012 - Writing by Shawnna Robert; Editing by Charles Rault | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
China and Russia announced last week the conclusion of a six-day joint naval exercise. The exercises took place in the Yellow Sea off of China's east coast and included a live-fire stage. It focused on joint maritime air defense and the defense of marine traffic arteries, with exercises involving joint escorts, marine search and rescue operations, anti-submarine tactics and anti-hijacking tactics. China and Russia have conducted several joint military exercises since 2005 within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Last week's exercise was the largest joint navy drill between China and Russia in recent years.
A total of 16 ships and two submarines from the Chinese navy took part in the exercises, including 5 missile destroyers, 5 missile frigates, 4 missile boats, and 1 support vessel and 1 hospital ship. 13 aircraft and 5 shipboard helicopters also participated, along with 7 Russian ships. The two navies deployed aircraft and special force units to conduct joint maritime anti-terror task in the exercise. More than 4,000 Chinese servicemen participated in the drill.
China's joint exercises are not limited to engagements with Russia. In 2011, China participated in 8 joint military exercises and training sessions with foreign forces. These included the China-Pakistan anti-terrorist training, the China-Indonesia special forces training, and the China-Belarus parachute troop training. Many more have been held within the 11th of China's 5-year plans. China says that these exercises play a positive role in promoting the overall capacity of its military while achieving the political and diplomatic goals of the state. In January 2011, China and the U.S. agreed to look into the possibility of holding joint exercises ranging from maritime search and rescue to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, and more. Both parties hoped such actions would improve certain key capabilities on both sides, lead to safer practices for our sea and air forces, and, over time, cultivate trust and lead to more opportunities for defense cooperation.
Considering that some of China's neighbors felt uneasy about the exercises, China defended the effort as a common and indispensable way for close countries to coordinate their actions with each other. It also noted that the size of the activity compared to similar activities by the U.S is much smaller. The U.S. and the Philippines were holding simultaneous exercises, which the parties also maintained were normal procedure. Chinese commentary took particular note of the changes to the annual exercises between these two partners, not only in the exercise location, the military force scale, but also the set-up of the exercise subjects and the range of the participating countries. Military forces from Japan, South Korea and Australia participated in the desktop simulation exercise, and representatives from countries such as Vietnam and Singapore also participated in the simulated command exercise. China postulates that the biggest meeting point for both the U.S. and the Philippines is probably to enhance both parties' influence in the Asia-Pacific region by stirring the situation in the South China Sea.
Last September, Russia and China agreed to expand their military cooperation. In a TV interview in April 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proclaimed that Russian-Chinese relations were at the highest point in the history of Russian-Chinese contacts, yet stressed that now is not the time to relax efforts. In conjunction with the exercises, Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Russia from April 26 to 30 to exchange views on how to improve bilateral cooperation and promote economic development. China has become Russia's largest trading partner, while Russia ranks among China's top ten trading partners, and bilateral trade in 2012 is currently 33% greater than last year. Trade has been bolstered by improved trade structure, including increased trade in the machinery and electrical products sectors. China has said it will expand the imports in this field.
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