China and Russia will hold joint naval exercises in the East China Sea starting later this week, according to Russian media reports. A detachment of Russia’s Pacific Fleet had left the far eastern port of Vladivostok for the “Maritime Cooperation 2022” exercise with China from December 21 to 27, Sputnik News quoted the Ministry of Defence in Moscow as saying on Monday. The drills were to strengthen mutual naval cooperation as well as maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, a ministry statement said. “The Russian fleet at the exercise will be represented by [the] Pacific Fleet flagship, the missile cruiser Varyag, the frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov, and [two] corvettes,” the ministry said. At least nine Chinese navy warships had earlier entered the western Pacific through various routes, according to the Japanese Defence Ministry. These included the aircraft carrier Liaoning and Type 055 guided-missile destroyer Lhasa , Tokyo said in statements over the weekend. It is not certain whether all nine will take part in the coming drills with Russia, but this year’s mobilisation appears to be larger than that for the last one. China’s Liaoning carrier strike group makes show of force in western Pacific The Liaoning was spotted transiting from the East China Sea to the western Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait, between Japan’s Miyako and Okinawa islands, last Friday. It was escorted by the Type 055 destroyer 103 Anshan, Type 052D destroyer Chengdu, Type 054A frigate Zaozhuang, and the Type 901 supply ship Hulunhu. The aircraft carrier conducted ship-borne fighter take-off and landing operations, the Japanese ministry said. The Lhasa, seen travelling with the Type 052D destroyer Kaifeng and Type 903A supply ship Taihu, passed through Osumi Strait south of Japan’s Kyushu island. Another Type 055 destroyer, the Wuxi, was spotted about 420km (261 miles) west of Japan’s Fukue island last Thursday, along with the Sovremennyy-class destroyer Taizhou. Japan to expand Okinawa ground force amid China threat Five PLA Navy ships – led by the Type 055 Nanchang – had taken part in the drills in October last year, alongside five warships from Russia’s Pacific Fleet. “Maritime Cooperation 2021” was the first joint China-Russia patrol in the western Pacific. The exercises, held in the Sea of Japan and around Japanese islands, included anti-submarine operations, joint crossings and manoeuvres, and weapon use.