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Peace Mission Exercises Get Under Way
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Rifles cracked and artillery boomed through the Ural Mountains yesterday as a group of terrorists overran a village, taking hundreds of residents hostage.

On hearing of the invasion, armed forces from China and Russia swiftly dispatched reconnaissance aircraft to the scene, then drew up the details of "Operation Rescue" to tackle the terrorists.

Thankfully, the event was only a rehearsal ahead of the "Peace Mission 2007" drill involving the six members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which begins in earnest on Thursday and runs until August 17.

The initial phase of the exercise will take place in Urumqi, capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Yesterday's rehearsal took place in the village of Chebarkul, about 80 km west of Chelyabinsk in Russia's Volga-Urals Military District. Chinese and Russian troops were involved, while representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan looked on.

More than 70 aircraft plus airborne units, paratroopers and other forces took part in the two-hour drill, Colonel General Vladimir Moltenskoy, deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Army, said.

Representatives of the six countries will stage two further exercises on Saturday and Monday in preparation for the final stage of the maneuvers on August 17, when leaders of the six countries and their defense ministers will watch the warfare exercise.

"The joint training achieved what it set out to and the Chinese and Russian troops were well coordinated," General Xu Qiliang, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), who is the Chinese commander-in-chief for the exercise, said.

Moltenskoy also said the joint training was a "success".

He said the drills would prepare SCO members for dealing with the challenges posed by the three evil forces of "terrorism, extremism and separatism" as well as drugs and arms trafficking.

"It concerns only internal problems faced by SCO members, it is not directed at any third party," he said.

The Chinese military first took part in a multilateral exercise in 2002. Since then, it has been involved in 17 drills with Pakistan, India, France, Britain, Australia, Thailand and the US, plus its fellow members of the SCO.

The joint military drill provides an opportunity for Chinese forces to learn from others in combat theory, tactics and management of troops, Major General Qian Lihua, who is deputy director of foreign affairs office of the Ministry of National Defense, said.

"This is also a platform for SCO members to learn from each other and improve their skills in dealing with new challenges and new threats and develop various forms of defense cooperation," he said.

(China Daily August 7, 2007)

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