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Sino-Russian drill set to guard regional peace

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-31 07:28
People's Liberation Army armored vehicles headed to the Vostok-2018, or East-2018, China-Russia military exercise from Sept 11 to 15 arrive at Zabaikalsk, Russia, on Sunday. [Photo/VCG]

The upcoming joint military exercise between China and Russia, dubbed Vostok-2018 or East-2018, will strengthen their abilities to jointly deal with different types of security threats and safeguard regional peace and security, China's Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday.

Experts said the joint exercise reflects the deep strategic mutual trust and practical cooperation between the two militaries, but it does not mean the two sides have formed a defense alliance that excludes or targets other countries.

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesman for the ministry, said at a regular monthly news briefing that most of the 3,200 Chinese troops, along with more than 900 pieces of weaponry and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, have entered Russia to take part in the exercise.

The two militaries will hold joint operation exercises at the Tsugol training range in the Russia's far eastern Trans-Baikal region from Sept 11 to 15.

They will primarily practice mechanized defense, fire strikes, counterattacks and other training, Wu said.

"The drill does not target any third party, nor is it related to any regional situation," he said.

It will be Russia's largest military exercise since 1981, involving around 300,000 Russian troops, 900 tanks, and 1,000 aircraft, as well as troops from China and Mongolia, according to Russian military authorities.

It is China's first time participating in an exercise of this kind. It is also the largest Chinese military delegation to join a military exercise in a foreign country.

"The drills are aimed at consolidating and developing the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination," Wu said.

The exercise will "further strengthen both sides' ability to jointly deal with varied security threats, which is conducive to safeguarding regional peace and security", he said.

When asked whether China will be invited to similar future exercises by Russia, Wu said it will depend on the consultation and agreement by both countries, and relevant information will be released in due course.

Wu said Chinese and Russian militaries are also in close communication regarding the "Joint Sea-2018" naval exercises, which are scheduled to take place later this year.

The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed in late August that it will deliver 10 Russian Su-35 multirole fighters to China by year's end, and "relevant work regarding Sino-Russian cooperation in military technology is going according to plan," Wu said.

Feng Shaolei, the director of Russian studies at East China Normal University, said joint military exercises are a good way of enhancing mutual understanding and trust between China and Russia, and not a means to create a military alliance.

"China and the Soviet Union had a defense pact during the Cold War, and it brought a lot of unnecessary pressure to China," he said.

"China is now upholding a new form of security relations based on mutual benefits, respect and cooperation," Feng said.

"It is not based on ideologies, excluding or targeting adversaries, or placing a country's own security interests above others like the United States."

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