Chinese troops will travel to Russia to take part in joint military exercises that will start at the end of the month, Beijing’s defence ministry has said.
Last month, Moscow announced plans to hold “Vostok” (East) military drills from August 30 to September 5, saying some foreign forces would also take part without naming them.
Beijing and Moscow have close defence links and China has said it wants to push bilateral relations “to a higher level,” even as Moscow faces international sanctions and widespread condemnation over its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“The aim is to deepen practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic collaboration among the participating parties, and strengthen the ability to respond to various security threats,” the Chinese defence ministry said in a statement.
India, Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other countries will also participate, it said.
Relations between Russia and China have grown increasingly close under Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and Beijing has been under pressure for its opposition to sanctions imposed by many Western countries over the war. Shortly before the invasion, Moscow and Beijing agreed on a “no limits” partnership.
Beijing said its decision to participate in the joint exercises was “unrelated to the current international and regional situation”.
A year ago this month, Russia and China held joint military exercises in north-central China involving more than 10,000 troops. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu praised the drills in China’s Ningxia and suggested they could be developed further.
In October, Russia and China held joint naval drills in the Sea of Japan. Days later, Russian and Chinese warships held their first joint patrols in the western Pacific.
The following month, South Korea’s military said it had scrambled fighter jets after two Chinese and seven Russian warplanes intruded into its air defence identification zone during what Beijing called regular training.
The Vostok drills are the second joint military exercise conducted by Chinese and Russian troops this year.
Bombers from the two countries conducted a 13-hour drill close to Japan and South Korea in May, forcing those countries to scramble jet fighters, as United States President Joe Biden was visiting Tokyo.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that while warming ties between China and Russia undermined global security, Washington did not “read anything” into the drills.
“Most of the participating countries also routinely participate in a wide array of military exercises and exchanges with the United States as well,” he told a press conference.
Russia’s eastern military district includes part of Siberia and has its headquarters in Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border.