What's Behind Russia-China Drills in South China Sea

© Sputnik / Vitaliy Ankov / Go to the photo bankRussian-Chinese naval drill "Joint Sea 2015 II" in Vladivostok
Russian-Chinese naval drill Joint Sea 2015 II in Vladivostok - Sputnik International
Russia and China have kicked off the Joint Sea-2016 naval exercise aimed at preserving stability in the Asia Pacific and providing safety of navigation in the South China Sea, Ma Yujun, director of the Center of Russian Studies at the Academy of Social Sciences of the Heilongjiang province, told Sputnik.

The eight-day drills will be held in the South China Sea off southern China's Guangdong province. Surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters and marines are expected to take part in the exercise scheduled to last until September 19.

Both nations will participate in defense, search and rescue, as well as escorting operations.

Ma Yujun viewed Joint Sea-2016 as a response to Washington's assertiveness in the region.

"Clearly, American, South Korean and Japanese activities close to China, as well as patrol missions that the US Navy has conducted in the South China Sea pose a threat to the geostrategic security of China. One could say that Russian and Chinese joint drills under these conditions are a response to the US with regard to creating a strategic balance in the Asia Pacific," the expert said.

Both Russia and China have highlighted that the drills are not targeted against third parties. They are instead focused on improving teamwork and swift response to emergencies. These activities are solely aimed at upholding territorial security and are not meant to escalate tensions or spark conflicts.

​"When compared to war-games of the United States and other western countries that are aggressive in their nature, [joint Russian and Chinese] drills are designed to work on defense objectives. The main goal that Russia and China are pursuing is to protect the interests of our people," the analyst said.

​For Ma Yujun, Joint Sea-2016 is testament to "a constructive approach when it comes to containing outside forces and external aggression."
The analyst also mentioned that joint naval exercise is an integral part of bilateral cooperation. Relations between Russia and China are not limited to trade and economic cooperation. They also have a comprehensive defense component.

"These efforts play a major role in fostering bilateral relations," he said. Joint drills "are not only focused on sharing experience on conducting military maneuvers. More importantly, they provide an opportunity to enhance combat coordination within the framework of military cooperation."

The first Joint Sea exercise was held in 2012.

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