Sun, Mar 20, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Military exercises are not to `practice a Chinese attack on Taiwan': General

AP , BEIJING

The visiting chief of staff of Russia's army is denying reports that planned Russian-Chinese military exercises are meant as practice for a Chinese attack on Taiwan, saying the activity isn't directed at any third country, according to Chinese and Russian news reports.

General Yuri Baluyevsky said yesterday that the planned exercise is meant to build strategic ties between the former Cold War rivals. He made the comments during meetings with Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders.

Baluyevsky dismissed as "pure fiction" reports by Russian media that the excercises were a rehearsal for an invasion of Taiwan, the self-ruled nation that the communist Beijing government claims as its territory.

Baluyevsky said the exercises are not "against any third country," China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. Beijing and Moscow announced plans in December for their first joint military exercises, adding to a growing alliance between the former Cold War rivals.

"It is a new way of cooperation between the two militaries, aimed at improving the training capabilities of the two militaries and boosting their cooperation," Xinhua quoted Baluyevsky.

The Russian general arrived in Beijing amid tensions over the new Chinese "Anti-Secession" Law that authorizes an attack if Taiwan pursues formal independence.

Baluyevsky said they would be held in the autumn and would involve both ground and naval forces, according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass. That indicated they would take place on China's coast, rather than the northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang or some other inland region, as Russian news reports have suggested.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported this week that China had proposed holding the exercises in Zhejiang, a coastal province near Taiwan. It said Russia was pushing for Xinjiang, due to its proximity to Central Asia, where both governments are worried about potential Islamic terrorism.

"Beijing is trying to use Russia as an additional lever of pressure on the disobedient island," the newspaper said.

The exercises will involve Il-76 transport planes with paratroopers, Tu-95MS bombers firing cruise missiles at targets in the sea and Su-27SM fighter jets simulating coverage of ground forces, according to Russian media reports.

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