On Monday, China’s Ministry of National Defense announced that Russia will be sending naval and air forces to participate in the upcoming “North/Interaction-2023” exercises. These exercises will take place in the central region of the Sea of Japan and will be organized by the People’s Liberation Army Northern Theater Command (PLA). This marks the second time Russia has taken part in the PLA’s annual strategic exercises, and the first time it will send naval and air forces to join in similar events.
According to Chinese military observers, the primary objective of these military exercises is to safeguard the national interests of both China and Russia in the key passages of the Sea of Japan. The “Safeguarding the security of strategic sea lanes” exercises aim to enhance the coordination capabilities of both militaries and strengthen their joint efforts in maintaining regional peace, stability, and readiness to respond to various security challenges.
A Chinese naval flotilla comprising five warships and four helicopters has departed from Qingdao military port in China’s Shandong province to participate in the “North/Interaction-2023” military exercises. The flotilla includes guided-missile destroyers Qiqihar and Guiyang, guided-missile frigates Zaozhuang and Rizhao, and the comprehensive supply ship Taihu, equipped with four helicopters. These ships have already been involved in numerous important missions and possess formidable combat and support capabilities.
The “North/Interaction-2023” exercises are organized by the PLA’s Northern Theater Command, in contrast to the previous “West/Interaction-2021” exercise, which was mainly composed of forces from the PLA’s West Theater Command. Chinese military experts anticipate a rotation among the PLA’s five theater commands for future strategic exercises with different themes, further bolstering the combat capabilities of the PLA.
In August 2021, Russia participated in the “Western/Interaction-2021” exercise held in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which marked the first time that China had invited foreign forces to participate in its annual strategic exercises on its own territory. Since 2018, China has sent troops to take part in Russia’s major strategic exercises, including “Vostok 2018,” “Tsentr-2019,” and “Kavkaz-2020.”
The joint exercises between China and Russia represent a normalized and institutionalized military cooperation agreement, serving as a tangible manifestation of the China-Russia strategic partnership in the military domain. They have become important assets for maintaining regional security and stability, combatting international terrorism, and deepening the mutual political and military trust between the two nations. The stability in the regional situation in recent years can be attributed, in part, to the collective security contributions provided by China and Russia.
The selection of the Sea of Japan as the exercise location holds strategic significance for both countries. The Sea of Japan contains three important straits—Soya, Tsushima, and Tsugaru—which are crucial for the national security of China and Russia. Any attempt by hostile forces to disrupt this area would pose a significant security threat. By conducting exercises in the Sea of Japan, China and Russia can better demonstrate the intended theme of the exercises and create conditions that simulate real combat scenarios.
The exercises will cover various traditional security topics such as air defense, anti-missile systems, anti-ship operations, and anti-submarine warfare. Additionally, they will address non-traditional security areas, including counterterrorism, counter-piracy, and humanitarian rescue missions.
As joint exercises between China and Russia, scenarios will likely involve one party’s ship being damaged while the other party participates in the rescue efforts. This will showcase the high level of integration and cooperation between the two countries and their respective armed forces.
By conducting these joint exercises, China and Russia aim to enhance their combat capabilities and maintain the security of strategic maritime passages. They are committed to ensuring the national security of both countries, even in unstable situations or potential conflicts. Following the “Vostok 2022” exercise, China and Russia conducted their second joint naval patrol in the Pacific Ocean, covering over 7,000 nautical miles through the Sea of Japan and the Bering Sea. In June 2023, they organized their sixth joint strategic air patrol over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. There is a high possibility of a third joint naval patrol after the “North/Interaction-2023” exercise, and the potential for a first joint strategic naval and air patrol represents a new breakthrough in their cooperation.
Military experts believe that organizing a joint air and naval strategic patrol between China and Russia is inevitable. This move will further strengthen their cooperation, enhance their actual combat capabilities, and make the exercises more meaningful by better reflecting on real combat situations.
Source: Global Times