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China, Russia to hold joint military drills in Sea of Japan

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China and Russia are set to hold joint military exercises in the airspace and waters of the Sea of Japan as part of the growing defense cooperation between the two countries.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters in Beijing on Thursday that an eight-day drill will be conducted on August 20-28 in the Peter the Great Gulf and other areas off the Russian coast.

The areas of the drills are located close to where the borders of Russia, China and North Korea come together.

Yang said the exercise will include training in air defense, anti-submarine and surface warfare, and landings.

Beijing will send seven naval ships along with fighter jets and other aircraft, Yang said, adding that the Chinese naval contingent will also include a destroyer and a frigate.

According to the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, Russia’s fleet will include submarines, surface vessels, and fixed-wing aircraft.

The senior Chinese official also stated that both sides will dispatch ship-borne helicopters and marines.

Yang added that a key objective of the military exercises was to “further enhance their (China and Russia’s) capabilities of jointly coping with maritime security threats.”

China and Russia conducted their first joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean and European waters in the Black Sea in May.

Beijing and Moscow have already intensified cooperation in political, economic and military spheres.

On May 8, Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a meeting at the Kremlin with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, agreed to invest billions of dollars in the Russian economy.

Moscow is seeking to diversify its markets amid US-led Western sanctions against Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

China and Russia have been holding naval drills in the Pacific waters since 2012 as the United States moved to step up military cooperation with its regional allies.

The latest drills could irk Japan due to the fact that the relationship between Beijing and Tokyo has strained by a territorial dispute.

Last week, Japan claimed that China has put 16 drilling rigs close to its maritime border with Japan in the East China Sea, claiming that Beijing could exploit undersea reserves over which the two neighbors are at loggerheads.

Yang has dismissed Tokyo’s claims, saying that Japan was exaggerating the threat of China in the Pacific region.

“The purpose of the Japanese accusation against China is to create and play up the China threat theory,” Yang said, adding that it provided Japan “an excuse” for new defense legislation.

Japan’s lawmakers from the lower house of parliament have recently approved controversial defense laws to allow Japanese soldiers to fight alongside allies when under attack.


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