China, Russia To Have Joint Mediterranean Naval Drills For The First Time
In a first, China will participate in joint naval drills with Russia this May which will be held in the Mediterranean Sea, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced yesterday.
The two big countries have held naval exercises in Pacific waters beginning 2012, but this will be the first time that the drills will be in the Mediterranean Sea. The move comes as the U.S. boosts its military ties with its Asian allies amid the latter's tension with Beijing over territorial issues.
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Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Geng Yansheng said the two countries will let a total of nine ships join the drills. The activity aims to strengthen the friendly ties between them and to improve their ability to thwart threats to their maritime security.
"What needs saying is that these exercises are not aimed at any third party and have nothing to do with the regional situation," said Geng.
The date of the drills, however, is yet to be confirmed. What is known as of now is that the activities will involve safe navigation, escort missions, at-sea replenishment, and live fire drills.
Russia has been increasingly trying to boost its ties with Asia, South America and Africa, since the West began imposing economic sanctions on it last year over the tensions in Ukraine.
China is depending on Russia for its advanced equipment for military defense. Both countries are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to travel to Moscow next month to participate in a parade hailing the end of World War II.
Since Xi came to office in 2013, China has been gradually showing off its military power, rattling its nearby neighbors and other world powers. However, it insists that it does not threaten anybody and that Beijing aims to promote peace globally.
In line with this, U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday accused China of flexing its military muscles to push forward its territorial pursuits in the disputed areas of South China Sea.
China claims around 90 percent of the South China Sea. However, some of its Asian neighbors including Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines also claim ownership of large parts of the disputed waters.