China and Russia began a joint naval exercise in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province on Sunday. The drill, which is scheduled to last until Friday, will strengthen the two countries' anti-piracy and counter-terrorism cooperation and boost their maritime supply, rescue and assistance capabilities. They are the first Sino-Russian maritime military maneuvers outside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization framework.
Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and his Russian counterpart Nikolai Makarov, agreed on the joint naval drill during his visit to Russia in August 2011, with the aim of deepening mutual understanding and trust between the two militaries.
Chen said that military-to-military cooperation is an important part of the China-Russia strategic partnership and the exercises will be the first of such drills by the two countries' navies.
In fact, military exchanges and cooperation have constituted an important component of the full strategic cooperative partnership established between China and Russia. Both sides have always maintained high-level military exchanges. Since the first joint "Peace Mission" military exercise in 2005, the two countries have held several joint military drills within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which have played a positive role in boosting bilateral military capabilities to deal with emerging uncertain factors.
The exercises are taking place as the United States and the Republic of Korea are conducting their own joint naval exercises. The US and the ROK are in the midst of Foal Eagle, which runs from March 1 to April 30, and involves as many as 200,000 ROK troops and approximately 11,000 US forces, most of whom traveled to the Korean peninsula specifically for the exercise. Regular military exercises have also been held between the US and the Philippines in the South China Sea over the past years.
Yet the exercises conducted by the Chinese and Russian navies are not aimed at any third party and China and Russia have no intention of forming a military alliance, Chinese military experts say. The exercises, involving destroyers, escort vessels, hospital ships, submarines, warships and supply ships from both navies, will focus on joint air defense and anti-submarine tactics and hijacked vessels and anti-terrorism drills as well as search and rescue simulations.
Some in the United States and Japan have interpreted the naval drill as a Sino-Russian response to US-led military exercises in the Asia-Pacific and their consolidated determination to balance Washington's dominance in the region. However, such misgivings are based on the ingrained Cold War mentality among certain countries and are completely groundless.
China adheres to a peaceful independent foreign policy, which advocates the settlement of international disputes through dialogue. The country's military build-up and exercises aimed at boosting its capabilities are proportionate to its need as a populous nation focused on economic development to defend its national interests and honor its international responsibilities. In recent years, China's military has participated in international peacekeeping missions and efforts to combat organized crimes and piracy to undertake its role as an emerging world power.
China is not seeking hegemony or challenging the established supremacy of the US, a policy China has maintained since the very beginning of its foundation in 1949. As an original member of the non-alignment movement, it has also never viewed any countries as a perceived adversary or targeted its increased military exchanges and cooperation at any party.
In fact, it is the Cold War mentality and ever-deepening military alliances of some countries in Asia that pose the biggest threat to regional peace and stability. The US' increased military and diplomatic presence in East and Southeast Asia over the past year have emboldened regional countries to take bold actions, sometimes provocative, at the South China Sea instead of adopting a consultative approach toward their disputes on territorial claims, adding uncertainties to the fragile regional situation.
As two permanent UN Security Council members, closer cooperation between China and Russia, including military cooperation, has played an important role in resolving regional disputes and maintaining regional and world peace and stability, as indicated by their concerted efforts to defuse the Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear issue and the long-thorny stalemate on the nuclear disarmament of the Korean Peninsula.
China advocates the establishment of friendly military relations with all countries, including the US and Russia. Sino-US military exchanges and cooperation have also achieved remarkable progress in recent years in the context of improved bilateral political ties.