​China, Russia to hold first-ever Mediterranean naval exercise

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Chinese and Russian naval vessels are seen during Joint Sea-2014 naval exercise outside Shanghai on the East China Sea, May 23, 2014

The Russian and Chinese Navies are to hold a joint exercise in the Mediterranean Sea in mid-May, a first in that part of the world. A total of nine warships from the two countries are to participate, Beijing said.

“The aim is to deepen both countries’ friendly and practical cooperation, and increase our navies’ ability to jointly deal with maritime security threats,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on Thursday in a monthly news briefing.

“What needs saying is that these exercises are not aimed at any third party and have nothing to do with the regional situation,” he added, saying that the Chinese Navy would contribute its warships currently on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.

Russia and China have previously held joint naval exercises in the Pacific in waters they both have direct access to. The Mediterranean Sea Cooperation-2015 drill would focus on navigation safety, at-sea replenishment, escort missions and live fire exercises, Geng said.

Moscow and Beijing are intensifying defense cooperation as both countries oppose US criticism of its military policies. China is being accused of aggressive deployments in the South China Sea, where it is contesting territories with several regional nations. The PLA’s Navy and Air Force have been increasingly at odds with Japan and South Korea, key American allies.

Russia has been subjected to economic sanctions over its position in Ukraine which, according to Washington, is threatening its NATO allies in Eastern Europe.