China and Russia are further strengthening their military ties by carrying out a new round of naval drills. And keeping in mind recent measures adopted by Japan that are aimed to strengthen the country’s military ties with the U.S., the idea to hold joint naval drills is most likely a counter measure.
On Saturday, China dispatched seven Chinese warships, five warplanes, six shipborne helicopters, 21 amphibious vehicles and 200 marines from the port of Qingdao in Shandong province to join the Russian navy’s 12 naval aircraft, 20 battleships, nine amphibious vehicles, two submarines and 200 marines in Vladivostok.
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The naval exercise will take place in the Sea of Japan and is an extension of Joint Sea-2015 (I), which was the naval drills held by the two countries in the Mediterranean Sea back in May.
Apart from the Sea of Japan, the drills will be held in Peter the Great Bay and waters off the Clerk Cape from August 20 through 28 and are aimed at simulating anti-submarine combat, air and naval defense as well as other military exercises.
The nine-day maneuvers will also include bilateral operations for both Russian and Chinese marines, sailors and naval air pilots in an amphibious assault exercise. This is the first time in history when a naval exercise will include joint amphibious assault drills.
The main goal of the drills is anti-submarine training, protection of naval communications, air defense exercise and anti-ship exercises.
In late July, Russia released a revised naval doctrine that named China the Kremlin’s core partner in the Pacific, which was widely interpreted in the West as the beginning of joint efforts to counter the Japan backed ‘Asia Pivot’ doctrine of the U.S.
Asian U.S. allies are worried over the drills
It must be noted that the Sea of Japan is surrounded by four countries – Japan, Russia, North and South Koreas. The Chinese Navy has not conducted any military drills in this area before.
However, a source close to the joint military drills mission, told Xinhua news agency that the exercises “are not targeted at any third party and are not relevant to the regional status quo,” emphasizing that the upcoming drills are a mere part of annual exchange program between Beijing and Moscow military units.
The fact that both Beijing and Moscow included 200 marines from their side means that the countries are planning to carry out a joint beach landing, which could become worrisome for other countries amid ongoing island disputes in the Pacific.
Explaining the decision to hold the drills, the Chinese Defense Ministry said that they are meant to “bolster the comprehensive strategic cooperation and partnership between Russia and China, and to increase the military capabilities of both countries to counter maritime threats.”
The Chinese squadron will reach Vladivostok port this Thursday, August 20, according to Xinhua. While staying in Vladivostok, the Chinese ships are expected to be publicly opened for civilian visitors.
U.S.-Japan partnership can lead to a ‘disaster’
The week-long drills are taking place at the time of the increasing militarization of the Pacific under U.S. President Barack Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ doctrine. The idea of the doctrine is to allow the U.S. Pacific Command to draw more than sixty percent of all U.S. forces under its command.
Japan, in return, is making legal efforts that would allow the country to break away from its pacifism and combine forces with the U.S. in operations in the region. However, not all Japanese people consider this move as reasonable.
Because of the growing strength of ties between Tokyo and Washington, “Japan may miss the boat in connection with the vast Eurasian infrastructural developments, including high-speed rail connections across Siberia linking Chinese coastal cities directly with ports in Europe (which promises to become the heaviest traveled trade route in history),” The Japan Times states in an article published on Saturday, the day the Chinese navy dispatched its ships to Russia.
“In the longer term, a Japan that allows itself to get entangled in America’s full-spectrum dominance scheme can only invite disaster upon itself,” the author of the article warns.
As a response to the Japanese getting so close with the U.S., Moscow and Beijing have been strengthening their military deterrence, which included Russia’s revised naval doctrine and China’s shift of focus to carry out naval exercises in the Pacific and, in particular, in the disputed South China Sea.
Big military ambitions of joint China and Russia’s military
Furthermore, Russia and Japan have recently started a new round of war of words regarding the status of Kuril Islands in the Pacific. On August 14, the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed Japan’s objections over the visit of the Kremlin’s officials to the Kuril Islands, which Tokyo claims its own.
Besides, earlier this month, the relations between Moscow and Tokyo reached a new height in its intensity due to the announcement of Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, that troops on Kuril Islands would be rearmed. In turn, the Japanese have been expressing their concern over the Russian military build-up in the east of the country, including on the Kuril Islands.
It must also be reminded that Russia has agreed to participate in naval military drills along with its Asia Pacific allies in the disputed South China Sea in May 2016.
In addition to that, China is making plans for a massive military parade to be held in September to celebrate victory over Japanese forces as well as the victory over the Axis powers in World War II, while Russia has also agreed to take part. It would be an exchange of courtesies, as China participated in Moscow’s Red Square Victory Parade back in May.