China and Russia to hold joint naval drills

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The ongoing Russian-Chinese naval drills in the South China Sea should help strengthen stability in the region rather than destabilize it, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

“We believe that all actions which take place there must be pondered, balanced and not add instability, but rather work on strengthening stability and mutual understanding to solve conflicts,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a weekly briefing in Moscow.

The “Joint Sea 2016” drill, running from Sept. 13 to 19, features navy surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, marines and amphibious armored equipment.

The Russian Navy has sent three surface ships, two supply ships, two helicopters, 96 marines, as well as amphibious armored equipment to participate in the drills.

The Chinese forces participating in the drills include a total of 10 vessels, including destroyers, frigates, landing ships, supply ships and submarines, as well as 11 fixed-wing aircraft, eight helicopters and 160 marines, according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense.

Wang Hai, Chinese chief director of the exercise and deputy commander of the Chinese Navy, said the joint drill is “a strategic measure” and a concrete action to promote the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership and will deepen cooperation between the two militaries, especially the two navies.

The drill will highlight combat, digitization and standardization to promote naval cooperation.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday that Washington hoped the exercises “take place in accordance with international law and don’t do anything to raise tensions.”

Zhang Junshe, senior research fellow of the Military and Academic Institute of the Chinese Navy, said the joint exercise is “essentially defensive and totally different from the island landing and retaking drills that a few countries engage in year after year in the west pacific region against an imaginary enemy.”