China-Russia joint maritime exercise may be held in S. China Sea

Source: China Military OnlineEditor: Yao Jianing
2016-07-01 17:29

BEIJING, July 1 (ChinaMil) -- China and Russia are consulting on a joint maritime exercise. Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MND), confirmed to Global Times at a regular press conference on June 30.

According to analysis, the China-Russia joint military exercise in 2016 may be held in waters off the South China Sea.

China-Russia joint military exercise "Joint Sea 2016" will be held in September, Russian media quoted Viktor Kochemazov, head of Russian Navy Operation Training. Russia's Pacific Fleet will participate with at least four vessels, and the PLA Navy will assign even more vessels, according to the report.

A Chinese naval delegation will visit St. Petersburg from July 4 to 8 to discuss with the Russian side on the exercise plan and force composition, it said.

Wu Qian confirmed on the upcoming joint maritime exercise on June 30 and said relevant information will be released in due time.

Starting in 2012, the China-Russia "Joint Sea" military exercises have become a regular mechanism and are the largest-scale bilateral joint exercises. This annual event is held in sea areas near China and Russia alternately.

The "Joint Sea 2012" was held in waters of the Yellow Sea near Qingdao, the one in 2013 took place in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok in the Far East, and the 2014 event was in the northern sea and airspace of the East China Sea to the east of Yangtze River estuary. The exercise in 2015 consisted of two stages, with the first stage taking place in the Mediterranean, and the second stage taking place in the Peter the Great Gulf, the areas off the coast of the Clerk Cape and airspace of the Sea of Japan.

The two previous exercises in China were directed by the North China Sea Fleet and East China Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy respectively. Therefore, the South China Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy may play a leading role in the upcoming joint exercise this year, with sea areas near the South China Sea as the arena this time.

Both China and Russia have repeatedly emphasized that the exercise doesn't target any third party. But if it's really held near the South China Sea, the timing, region and subjects of the exercise are sure to draw close attention, as the South China Sea has become an international hotspot since 2015.

Someone familiar with the matter told Global Times on June 30 that the outside world shouldn't read too much into the arrangement of "Joint Sea-2016", because China-Russia joint maritime exercise has become a normal mechanism, and there is no such thing as a special period for it. The two countries hold the exercise not to target any third party, and they don't have to intentionally avoid sensitive regions either.

From the night of June 8 to the early morning of June 9, Russian and Chinese naval vessels successively entered waters near the Diaoyu Islands from two different directions, making the Japanese government extremely nervous. "Is it a sign of close relationship between the two countries?"

When answering the question asked by Global Times, Wu Qian said "the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated isles are inherently Chinese territories and it is reasonable and legitimate for Chinese vessels to sail near the waters of its own territory. Other parties have no right to point fingers at such activities. China and Russia have maintained comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and the two sides have kept routine communication in related fields."

During Russian President Putin's visit to China last week, China and Russia announced three joint statements including the one on "enhancing global strategic stability". Both countries stressed that they are not allies and don't target any third party.

As to whether China and Russia will put the statement into actual practice by taking military actions and what new progress will be made in China-Russia military cooperation, Wu Qian said mil-to-mil relationship is an important component of the bilateral relationship between China and Russia, and demonstrates the high level of strategic mutual trust and coordination between them.

Currently, the mil-to-mil cooperation between the two sides maintains a good momentum of healthy development. Mutually beneficial cooperation has been carried out in many areas, Wu Qian said.

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