On Monday, three Russian surface ships, two supply ships, two helicopters, 96 marines, and a handful of amphibious armoured vehicles arrived at China’s Zhanjiang port for a joint military exercise in the South China Sea, China’s Ministry of Defence reports.
China says the drills will include the “highest ever level of standardization, combat and digitalization in recent China-Russia drills.”
The Chinese and Russian ships will practice “joint air defence, anti-submarine operations, landing, island-seizing, search and rescue, and weapon use,” according to the statement.
For their part, China states they will deploy a total of ten ships, including destroyers, frigates, landing ships, supply ships, submarines. In addition, 11 fixed-wing aircraft, eight helicopters, and 160 marines will participate.
Though the statement claims the drills do not intend to target any third party, the placement of the drills in the heavily disputed South China Sea raises eyebrows. This is particularly true as China has staged military drills explicitly training to take the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, territories that Japan and China have long argued over.
The announcement of the drills in July, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruled against China’s nine-dash line claims in the region, could be seen as a response to the rising international pressures on China to comply with international law and the wishes of neighbouring nations.
The South China Sea is the site of several overlapping territorial claims from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Brunei.
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