Moscow, 18 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Russian and Chinese military commanders marked the launch of the exercises today by laying wreaths at a World War II memorial in Vladivostok.
The drill, dubbed Peace Mission 2005, will simulate a scenario in which troops are deployed to restore order in a third country torn by massive ethnic unrest.
The maneuvers will take place mainly in the Yellow Sea and culminate on China's Shandong Peninsula.
They will involve as many as 10,000 soldiers -- mostly Chinese -- as well as 140 naval ships and submarines, Russian Tu-22M long-range bombers, and Tu-95 strategic bombers.
General Liang Guanglie, the chief of the Chinese Army's General Staff, told a news conference in Vladivostok today that the drill is intended to strengthen the capability of the two armed forces in jointly fighting terrorism and extremism.
His Russian counterpart, Colonel General Yurii Baluyevskii, said the drill will help both countries protect stability in the region.
"The main aim of these exercises is to ensure the training, to ensure the readiness of the structures in charge of the subdivisions taking part from the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, precisely in order to counter the challenges we face today in the Asia-Pacific region, and in the world as a whole," Baluyevskii said.
"The main aim of these exercises is to ensure the training, to ensure the readiness of the structures in charge of the subdivisions taking part from the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, precisely in order to counter the challenges we face today in the Asia-Pacific region, and in the world as a whole."
The joint exercises, Baluyevskii added, underline the growing ties between Russia and China.
"Today, the development of relations with the People's Republic of China occupies a key position in the foreign political relations of our state, our armies and our peoples," Baluyevskii said.
Baluyevskii also stressed the maneuvers were not meant to intimidate any third country.
Both Moscow and Beijing have been eager to dispel U.S. fears that the exercises are aimed at creating a Russian-Chinese military union.
The United States views with distrust the strengthening ties between the two nations. Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership to oppose what they perceive as U.S. domination in global affairs.
Russia and China are also seeking to check the presence of the United States in Central Asia and to consolidate their own influence in the volatile region.
Also on hand for the drill are member-state observers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- a security group that comprises Russia, China and four of the five Central Asian states. Their presence has further fueled speculation that the exercises are intended as a message to Washington to stay away from the region.
The military drill has also sparked worries in the United States that China might be preparing for a possible surprise strike against Taiwan before other countries can intervene. Beijing has vowed to attack Taiwan if the island formally declares its independence.
Ivan Safranchuk, the director of the Moscow-based Center for Defense Information, said the military exercises are certainly part of China and Russia's efforts to show the West they are solid partners.
"From a political point of view, I would not say this [drill] is taking an anti-American or anti-Western position," Safranchuk said. "But it demonstrates that Russia and China can be close partners."
Military experts were also downplaying the practical military objectives of the drill itself.
Many said it is more of a commercial opportunity for Russia to showcase its military hardware to China, the world's top purchaser of Russian armaments and equipment.
"For the Chinese side, these exercises are needed to gain experience in the use of the military technology it is buying from Russia," Safranchuk said. "For Russia, accordingly, these exercises are an opportunity to show China the capabilities of the equipment it is buying, but also that of the equipment Russia would like to sell to China in the future."
Beijing might be particularly interested in acquiring sensitive military equipment and technologies that Moscow has so far refused to sell. Experts said the inclusion of Russian strategic and long-range bombers in the drill is no coincidence.
Over the past decade, massive Russian arms sales to China have favored the development of bilateral cooperation. According to estimates by the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Russia has been delivering an annual average of $2 billion worth of arms to China since 2000, including fighter aircraft, submarines, and destroyers.
(RFE/RL correspondent Antoine Blua contributed to this report.)See also:
Russia, China Military Exercises Underscore Growing Ties