The Chinese and Russian navies launched eight days of war games in the South China Sea on Monday, in a sign of growing cooperation between their armed forces against the backdrop of regional territorial disputes.
The ”Joint Sea-2016” maneuvers include surface ships, submarines, ship-borne helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, along with marines and amphibious armored vehicles who will conduct live-firing exercises, according to a Defense Ministry statement issued Sunday.
Tasks will include defensive and rescue drills, anti-submarine exercises and the simulated seizure of an enemy island by marines from both sides.
The ministry didn’t say exactly where the drills would be held in the South China Sea, home to heated territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors.
Joint Chinese-Russian drills have grown increasingly common in recent years – this week’s exercises are the fifth between the two navies since 2012 – with the countries joined in their mutual suspicion of the U.S. and its allies.
Russia has been the only major country to speak out on China’s behalf in its demand that the U.S. and other countries stay out of such arguments. That came as an arbitration panel in the Hague, Netherlands, issued a ruling invalidating China’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, a result that Beijing angrily rejected as null and void.
While China says the drills do not envision specific enemies or target any third parties, their location in the tense South China Sea has drawn criticism.
During a visit to China last month, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. Scott Swift said: ”There are other places those exercises could have been conducted.” He described them as part of a series of actions ”that are not increasing the stability within the region.”