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Joint Military Drill with Russia Begins
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The chiefs of staff of Chinese and Russian armed forces announced the start of joint military exercises in Vladivostok at 11:00 AM today (8:00 AM Beijing time), and stressed they were neither aimed at nor concerned the interests of any third country.


Liang Guanglie, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, said they will focus on strategic consultation and battle planning, transportation and deployment of troops, and combat practice.


His Russian counterpart Yury Baluyevsky, speaking alongside Liang in the base of Russia's Pacific Fleet, echoed him and said the holding of the exercise does not mean that the two countries want to form anything like a military bloc.


Code-named "Peace Mission 2005," the 8-day drill is thought to be the first between the two countries since a joint naval exercise in 1999, and the first ever to involve ground, sea and air forces together.


It will involve nearly 10,000 troops from the two armies, navies, air forces as well as airborne units, marine corps and logistic units, according to China's Ministry of Defense earlier.


Sergey N. Goncharov, charge d'affaires at the Russian Embassy in China, told Xinhua News Agency in Beijing today that the exercise will inaugurate a new stage of military cooperation between the two countries and strengthen mutual trust.


He said it was of great importance to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which also includes Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Their representatives were invited to watch, as were those from SCO’s observer nations Mongolia, India, Pakistan and Iran.


"We hope similar exercises will be held within the SCO framework in the future," said Goncharov.


The exercise is aimed at helping both armed forces get ready to make joint efforts to strike international terrorists, national separatists and religious extremists, who he said have conducted activities in both countries and have been growing in SCO member nations.


"Let them have a look at our joint military exercise and think over whether it is worth continuing their activities," said Goncharov, adding, "We hope the exercise can help cool the 'fervor' of these terrorists, separatists and extremists."


Twenty Chinese and Russian World War II veterans, ten from each country, attended the launch ceremony.


(Xinhua News Agency August 18, 2005)
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