Troops from China and Kyrgyzstan joined forces Thursday in exercises near the Kyrgyz-Chinese border aimed at countering incursions by terrorist groups, Kyrgyz Defense Minister Esen Topoyev said.
"Today on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border joint anti-terrorism exercises began involving the armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and China began in the south of the country," Topoyev said.
The maneuvers are taking place over two days near the Irkeshtam crossing on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border and involve some 300 troops from China's Xinjiang military district and Kyrgyzstan's defense ministry and border forces, he said.
It is the first bilateral anti-terrorism exercise being carried out within the framework of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), according to Topoyev.
The maneuver aims to practice coordinated operations against possible incursions by international terrorists onto the territory of either Kyrgyzstan or China, the minister added.
"These exercises demonstrate the desire of the two countries to work together in a friendly manner to fight terrorist groups on the territory of these two countries," he said.
Members of the SCO, which also includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, are participating as observers of the exercises.
China shares several hundreds of kilometers (miles) of border with Kyrgyzstan in its western region of Xinjiang, whose Muslim separatist movement has been a constant worry for Beijing.
The fragile nature of security in the area was highlighted earlier this year when a senior Chinese diplomat was gunned down in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek.
The diplomat and his driver were killed at the end of June in an attack which local officials suspected might have involved Muslim separatists from Xinjiang.
Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, was dramatically shaken in 1999 and 2000 when rebels from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) carried out an incursion across the ex-Soviet republic's border with Tajikistan.
The IMU has since been branded a foreign terrorist organization with links to the al-Qaeda network by the United States. IMU leader Djuma Namangani is reported to have been killed while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
(China Daily October 11, 2002)