China, Russia conclude naval exercises following North Korea nuclear test

Fleets conducted training exercises off coast of Vladivostok as both countries consolidate their maritime ties

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 10:31pm

China’s navy returned to its military port after charting previously unfamiliar waters in the second stage of its annual joint naval drills with Russia.

The naval exercises, which took place not far from Russia’s border with North Korea, followed Pyongyang’s sixth and largest nuclear test on September 3 that came despite tougher international sanctions and calls for the hermit nation to halt its nuclear programme.

They also took place days after the US conducted bombing drills with South Korea over the Korean peninsula that were intended as a show of force against the North’s nuclear and missile tests.

The exercises also symbolise the two countries’ growing maritime cooperation.

The Chinese fleet returned to Qingdao on Tuesday morning after sailing around 4,900 nautical miles to conduct week-long exercises with the Russians in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, according to a Wednesday report in the PLA Daily, the Chinese military’s official mouthpiece.

Their exercises involved coastal drills near Vladivostok between September 18 and 21, then sea exercises that from September 22 to 26, the Russian defence ministry said.

The exercises marked the first time the Chinese navy conducted a drill in unfamiliar waters in the Sea of Okhotsk, north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

It also saw the two fleets conduct complex submarine exercises and anti-submarine drills for the first time.

Other drills included cooperative rescues of hijacked ships and ships in distress, as well as air defence exercises.

The Chinese vessels taking part in the exercises included the missile destroyer Shijiazhuang, a missile frigate, an integrated supply ship, a submarine rescue vessel, as well as shipborne helicopters and submersible rescue vehicles, the PLA Navy said.

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This was the eighth joint exercise between China and Russia, which have conducted annual naval drills since 2012.

It further consolidates the development of the two nation’s strategic partnerships, while “deepening the friendly and pragmatic cooperation between their forces and enhancing the ability of the two navies to cope with maritime security threats,” the PLA Daily reported.

While state media argued that the exercises were “unrelated to the regional situation” the joint drills took place amid increasingly fraught tensions over the Korean peninsula.

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The latest exercise not only allowed China to train in unfamiliar waters, analysts said it also shows China’s naval prowess and growing cooperation with Moscow.

“There’s a need for the PLA Navy to show off its fighting capabilities in case there is a military conflict in the area,” Beijing-based military analyst Li Jie told the South China Morning Post last month.