China and Russia have kicked off their anticipated joint military exercises in the Sea of Japan on Thursday. Chinese state television has described the purpose as ensuring security of "strategic passage at sea".
Bloomberg noted of regional reporting that China and Russia are "testing their joint combat capability via the exercise" - but there's been no specification of how long the exercise is expected to last, which involves land, air, and sea military assets. In reality, China and Russia are 'answering' recent US-Japan drills with provocative military exercises of their own in regional waters, at a moment Beijing has warned Japan over its deepening cooperation with NATO.
China's defense ministry over the weekend confirmed that PLA naval vessels had set sail in preparation for new exercises with Russia.
This included Beijing sending five Chinese warships, among them a guided-missile destroyer, to participate - but without specifying an exact location within the Sea of Japan.
Last month both countries conducted joint air patrol over the Seas of Japan and East China, demonstrating their deepened ties, also amid the war in Ukraine which Beijing has yet to outright condemn, to the frustration of the West.
China has considered itself 'neutral' concerning the Ukraine conflict while at the same time highlighting the dangers of NATO expansion east. For this reason Washington has accused it of quietly supporting Moscow.
Bloomberg has meanwhile cited US sanctions and punitive measures aimed at both Beijing and Moscow as a chief motivator to grow militarily closer.
PLA Navy Ships Underway off Japan
"China and the armed forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted six joint military exercises together last year, the most in data going back two decades," the publication notes.
"That accounted for two-thirds of all of China’s drills with foreign militaries in 2022, according to data compiled by the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the U.S. National Defense University (NDU)."
But Russia and China have conducted naval drills in other global hotspots as well, in the last months holding naval exercises with Iran in the Persian Gulf region.
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