China and Russia will hold a series of naval exercises in the Yellow Sea toward the end of this month, a Chinese military spokesman announced last week, in what could be the largest drill ever held by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the West Pacific.
Chinese military spokesman Yang Yujun (楊宇軍) announced during a regular monthly press conference on Thursday that the PLAN and the Russian Navy would hold the exercises under an agreement reached during a visit by PLA Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) during a visit to Moscow in August last year.
The joint maneuvers, which are planned for April 22 through April 29, will be held in the Yellow Sea, beginning at Vladivostok, Russia, and concluding in Qingdao, in China’s Shandong Province.
The Chinese-language Renmin Ribao reported that the Russian Pacific Fleet would dispatch more than 10 warships, led by a missile cruiser, to participate in the exercise.
On the Chinese side, a mixed fleet, led by a guided-missile destroyer, will be dispatched from the PLAN’s North Sea fleet.
The Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily reported at the weekend that the maneuvers would be the largest ever held by the PLAN in the West Pacific.
Russian Navy Deputy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Leonid Sukhanov said the exercise would be held within the framework of the “strategic partnership” agreed by the leaders of the both countries.
The exercises will involve tests for the command-and-control, armaments, support and protection systems of the two navies, Sukhanov was quoted by the Renmin Ribao as saying. The navies will also conduct surface and underwater exercises and test combat systems interoperability, as well as the effectiveness of automated control systems, electronics and information warfare.
“Participating naval forces will train in the prevention of armed conflicts in exclusive economic zones,” he said.
China and Russia have conducted a number of joint military exercises since 2005 under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The move comes amid a “return” to the Asia-Pacific region announced by the administration of US President Barack Obama. In the coming months, the US Navy is expected to participate in a series of joint exercises in the region, including the Balikatan drills with the Philippines in the South China Sea from April 16 through April 27.
The PLAN’s North Sea fleet would likely play a major role in any conflict over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China.