By Brad Lendon, CNN
China and Russia will begin a weeklong joint live-fire naval exercise in the East China Sea on Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, as the two partners step up cooperation in an increasingly tense western Pacific.
“The active part of the exercise will include joint missile and artillery firing against air targets, artillery firing against sea targets, and practicing joint anti-submarine actions with practical use of weapons,” the Russian statement said.
The exercises, dubbed Maritime Cooperation 2022, will feature Russia’s Pacific Fleet flagship — the missile cruiser Varyag — a frigate and two corvettes, the statement said, adding that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy will send two destroyers, two patrol ships, a multipurpose supply ship, and a diesel submarine.
Chinese aircraft would also take part, it said.
“The main purpose of the exercise is to strengthen naval cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China and to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” the statement said.
The Chinese military has yet to comment on the statement from Moscow.
China has so far refused to outright condemn Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine while stepping up economic assistance to its neighbor, boosting bilateral trade to record levels in a boon to Russian business amid Western sanctions.
The Russian announcement comes less than a week after Japan announced it was increasing its defense budget and would acquire long-range weapons, citing increasing threats to Japan’s security environment.
China and Russia are among those threats and the coming exercises are the latest sign of increasing Chinese-Russian cooperation around Japan, which has included joint air exercises near Japanese airspace and even the circumnavigation of the Japanese main islands by a joint Chinese-Russian flotilla in 2021.
In June, Tokyo said it tracked eight Russian and Chinese warships near its waters within a week.
Analysts noted at the time that the Chinese and Russian military activity is a worry for Japan.
“Tracking the movements of both Russian and Chinese military forces are a strain on the resources of the Japan Self Defense Forces,” James Brown, associate professor of political science at Temple University in Tokyo, told CNN in June.
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CNN’s Philip Wang contributed to this report.