- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Senior Chinese and Russian military officials have agreed to boost cooperation, the Chinese Ministry of Defense announced Wednesday.

Leadership from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Russian Armed Forces made the decision while gathering for a strategic dialogue, according to the Russian state news service Tass. The move appears to bring the world’s first- and fourth-largest armies closer together.

“The sides exchanged their opinions on thorny international and regional issues, as well as on closer cooperation between China and Russia in the military sphere,” said a Chinese Ministry of Defense statement, Tass reported. “The sides reached broad consensus.”

Officials who reportedly gathered included Gen. Li Zuocheng, head of the PLA; Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, first deputy head of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces; and Maj. Gen. Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of staff of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission.

The news comes on the heels of last week’s controversial announcement by the Pentagon to disinvite China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, the yearly set of war games held in the Pacific that regularly includes more than two dozen nations. The Defense Department cited China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea as a reason for the move.

Discussions addressing the South China Sea are anticipated at the upcoming annual IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore — Asia’s biggest security conference — which starts Friday.

While traveling to Asia Wednesday to participate, Defense Secretary James Mattis said he was planning to raise Washington’s concerns about Chinese expansion.

Recent weeks have seen increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing as the Trump administration has made efforts to counter Chinese influence on a host of issues, including security and trade.

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