- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Chinese and Russian navies are gearing up for their largest-ever joint exercises, slated to begin Thursday in the Pacific with more than 20 ships and featuring anti-submarine operations as well as a joint-beach landing.

The “Joint Sea 2015 II” exercises will run through Aug. 28 in the Sea of Japan and off the coast of Vladivostok.

While analysts say the operations have increased in size and sophistications during recent years, the Chinese and Russian navies have held five such joint exercises over the past decade.

But in the current round of exercises, Chinese frigates have reportedly made their first-ever visit to the Russian Novorossiysk naval base in the Black Sea.

President Vladimir Putin made headlines in the area Tuesday by joining a Russian navy team aboard a small vessel that plunged into the Black Sea along the coast of the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine last year.

The U.S. Naval Institute’s online news and analysis portal, USNI, said Tuesday that the coming China-Russia exercises will be the second series of joint drills in less than a year.

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The first “Joint Sea 2015” operation played out in the Mediterranean Sea in April. The USNI report noted that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said late last year that the U.S. was a factor motivating increased China-Russia military training.

However, more recent comments by other top Russian officials suggest Moscow is generally in line — rhetorically at least — with U.S. calls for multilateral solutions to any territorial disputes in hotly disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has angered other countries in the region with aggressive sovereignty claims in recent months.

Russia Today also reported that the upcoming exercises mark the first time the Chinese Navy has taken part in a joint operation in the Sea of Japan, which borders North and South Korea and Russia, as well as Japan.

China’s state-run Xinhua news service reported this week that seven Chinese warships had left the port of Qingdao for the Sea of Japan where they will join Russian counterparts for the upcoming nine days of exercises.

The drills will take place in the Peter the Great Gulf, waters off the Clerk Cape, and the Sea of Japan, according to Xinhua. Citing a “source close to the operation,” the news services said the two nations will simulate anti-submarine combat and air defense and other relevant missions, including the joint beach landing of troops.

Six helicopters, five fixed-wing aircraft, 21 units of amphibious equipment and 200 marines are said to be preparing to join the exercise from the Chinese side, with the Russian navy reportedly planning to send 16 surface ships, two submarines, 12 naval aircraft, nine amphibious vehicles and 200 marines.

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The drills “are not targeted at any third party and are not relevant to regional status-quo,” the source was quoted as saying in the Xinhua report. “The drills are part of annual exchange program between Chinese and Russian militaries.”

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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