Beijing: China and Russia on Sunday launched their first week-long joint naval exercises close to Japanese waters amid tensions between Beijing and its Asian neighbours over maritime disputes.
China has deployed a total of 16 vessels and two submarines to take part in the exercises in the Yellow Sea off China's east coast, according to the official media.
These are the first exercises involving the navies of the two countries. Its fleet included five missile destroyers, five missile frigates, four missile boats, a support vessel and hospital ship.
More than 4,000 Chinese servicemen will attend the drill. Russian ships taking part in the drills included its Pacific Fleet's flagship Varyag, a slava-class guided missile cruise and three Udaloy-class destroyers.
According to China's Defence Ministry, the exercise will focus on joint maritime air defence, anti-submarine tactics, maritime search and rescue as well as joint effort to rescue hijacked vessels.
The two navies will also deploy aircraft and special force units to conduct joint maritime anti-terror task in the exercise.
The drill has rattled the nerves of media from Japan and South Korea. Japanese media speculated that the move is aimed at warning Japan, which has maritime disputes with both China and Russia, while Seoul-based news agency said its coincidence with a joint drill between South Korea and the United States is a showcase of military muscle that can balance the US in the region.
Major General Qian Lihua, Director of the Foreign Affairs Office with the China's National Defence Ministry told Chinese media early this week that it is "normal arrangement" within the framework of military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow.
Since 2005, China and Russia have conducted several joint military exercises within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which also includes the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.