China and Russia to hold joint South China Sea naval drills as pressure rises from US

China and Russia will launch eight days of joint naval drills in the South China Sea on Monday, a move observers said underlined the growing partnership between the countries amid rising military pressure from the United States.

The exercise off Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, would involve surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters and marines from China’s South Sea Fleet, a statement on the defence ministry’s website quoted People’s Liberation Army Navy spokesman Liang Yang as saying.

China, Russia to hold joint naval drill in South China Sea

The drills come two months after an international tribunal in The Hague dismissed China’s historical claims to most of the South China Sea.

China refused to take part in the arbitration and has accused the US of stoking tensions between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours.

Personnel from the Chinese and Russian navies will conduct defence, rescue, anti-submarine drills as well as exercises to take control of islands, Liang said.

The marine corps will also take part in live-fire drills, sea crossing and island landing operations, he said.

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China said earlier that the drills were not aimed at any other country, but Chinese military observers said the exercises would be a “joint and effective response” to military pressures from the US.

Retired PLA colonel Yue Gang said Beijing and Moscow had each confronted rising challenges from Washington – from the stand-off with China in the South China Sea to the sanctions imposed by the West over Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Yue said there was also the possibility of a US-Japan-South Korea military alliance after Seoul agreed to deploy a US advanced anti-missile system on the Korean peninsula. “[China and Russia] understand that they need to cooperate, not just in diplomacy and politics but also in the military as a way to respond to the challenge from the West,” he said. “This is most effective way at this point.”

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These will be the fifth Sino-Russian “Joint Sea” drills since 2012. They are part of Beijing and Moscow’s efforts to strengthen military and security cooperation in recent years.

Last year the joint drills were held in the Sea of Japan and the Mediterranean, and involved the PLA’s North and East sea fleets.

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