Russia troops to join Beijing parade
Nine prime Russian and Chinese warships are conducting joint naval drills in the Mediterranean Sea which began Monday, a sign observers believe proves the two countries' mutual trust which makes it conducive for both navies to become familiar with each other's military capability.
Ships from China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) include the frigates Linyi and Weifang and the supply vessel Weishanhu, all of which completed an escort mission in the Gulf of Aden.
Russia sent the patrol vessel Pytlivy and guided missile air-cushion ship Samum, as well as military personnel from the Novorossiysk garrison, reported Interfax, a Russian news agency.
The 11 day exercise is divided into four phases, said deputy commander of the Chinese Navy Admiral Du Jingchen, who was quoted by the website of China's Ministry of National Defense.
The first two days are the preparation period, followed by the assembly of the two navies in the Mediterranean Sea from Tuesday night until May 17. Exercises to safeguard maritime safety will be conducted from May 18 to May 21.
The exercise involves anti-submarine, air defense, and anti-ship missile simulation exercises to prepare the navies against attacks from the air and sea, according to Zhang Junshe, a research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, China News Service reported.
"Anti-aircraft capability is part of conventional warfare, which requires both navies to share their radar and sonar data. This requires a high level of trust between the two countries," said Zhang Junshe, a research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, China News Service reported.
Relations between Beijing and Moscow reached new heights following a series of high-profile military exchanges, analysts said.
On Sunday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that troops would participate in the Beijing victory parade in September to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Russian news agency Sputnik reported.
The announcement followed the victory parade in Moscow on Saturday, when Chinese President Xi Jinping joined Russian President Vladimir Putin at the parade, which also featured a 112-strong honor guard from the PLA.
"Military exchanges are the most sensitive aspects in any bilateral relations. The Mediterranean drills have shown that China and Russia trust each other in the military aspect that will also extend to other areas," Wang Haiyun, former military attaché at the Chinese embassy in Moscow, told the Global Times.
It will be the first time a foreign army will participate in a military parade on Chinese soil, said Wang, proving the two countries' strong mutual trust on military cooperation.
"China and Russia are facing renewed threats from their neighbors 70 years after the end of WWII. The two countries' past contributions in WWII have also been undermined by the West. There is a need for the two countries to unite and provide support to each other," Wang said.
Wang also pointed out that the revival of militarism in Japan, following its decision on collective self-defense and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempt to reinterpret the pacifist constitution, may threaten peace and stability in Asia.
"Relations between China and Russia have reached historic heights due to their shared experiences, as they both oppose hegemony and unilateralism, and advocate peaceful measures in resolving international disputes," Wu Enyuan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Despite warming ties between the two countries, Wu believes any formal military alliance is unlikely, as China has diversified its priorities in developing diplomatic ties.
Wu's viewpoints were echoed by Wang Xianju, a professor at the Development Research Center of the State Council.
"China has learned from lessons and experiences since 1949 that it should remain non-aligned. But the nature of relations between the two countries has been constantly misinterpreted by the West," Wang Xianju told the Global Times.
Meantime, China's largest gold producer, China National Gold Group Corporation, announced on Monday it has signed an agreement with Russia's largest gold miner, Polyus Gold, to deepen ties in gold exploration, reported the Xinhua News Agency.
The agreement is one of many deals signed between China and Russia in energy, transportation, space, finance and media exchanges during President Xi Jinping's visit to Russia that ended on Sunday.