Clifford Cunningham | 8 Aug 2016
China’s Defense Ministry signaled its intention to conduct joint naval exercises with Russia in the South China Sea this September, an unusual move as Russia has close ties with many of the countries with competing claims in the sea.
“Due to the great pressure Russia receives from the West in Europe, Moscow is becoming more motivated to having deeper strategic cooperation with Beijing at this moment,” Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Chinese Global Times.
For its part, the Chinese Defense Ministry shrugged off claims the naval exercises are an attempt to flex its own military muscle as the United States Navy continues to deploy ships into the area of the South China Sea claimed by China.
Defense Minister Chang Wanquan called for “the recognition of the seriousness of the national security situation, especially the threat from the sea,” and warned the country must prepare for mobilization to “safeguard sovereignty.”
Those warnings come days after the Chinese Navy conducted a live-fire naval exercise in the East China Sea, with the Defense Ministry declaring “an information technology-based war at sea is sudden, cruel and short, which requires fast transition to combat status, quick preparation and high assault efficiency.”
The naval exercise involved ships from China’s East Sea, North Sea and South Sea Fleets, as well dozens of fighters and hundreds of soldiers responsible for coastal defense, communications, and electronic warfare defense.
“The drills overall covered a wide range of combat scenarios including reconnaissance, early warning, long-range precision strikes and air and missile defense capabilities of the navy,” reported RT.
Earlier this month, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea in a case brought by the Philippines. Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia also claim sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea.
Russia’s campaign to strengthen its military capabilities and influence in Asia come after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public warning about the growing risk of World War III. Putin recently fired nearly 50 senior officers of the Russian Baltic Fleet for refusing to aggressively confront NATO ships in the Baltic Sea.