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China, Russia Launch Naval Drills In Far East

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

A group of Chinese warships has arrived in Russia's Far Eastern city of Vladivostok to participate in the second round of joint naval exercises.

Russian Pacific Fleet spokesman Vladimir Matveyev said that the Naval Interaction 2017 drills will consist of a shoreline phase in Vladivostok, where the fleet is headquartered, from September 18-21.

The maneuvers will also include an at-sea phase from September 22-26 that will unfold in the Sea of Japan and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk.

Matveyev said the drills will involve a total of 11 surface ships, two submarines, two deep-sea rescue vehicles, four antisubmarine aircraft, and four deck-based helicopters.

The first part of Naval Interaction 2017 was conducted in the Baltic Sea in July.

Russia and China frequently present a united front in the face of that they say are U.S. efforts to dominate the world.

They are the leading members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian military, political, and economic bloc formed in 2001.

The two neighboring countries have been holding joint military exercises for more than a decade and conducted their first joint naval drills in 2012.

In the past three years, Moscow has stepped up its pursuit of stronger relations with Beijing as it faces off with the West over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The latest exercises are taking place not far from North Korea amid continuing tensions over the isolated state's nuclear ambitions. Both Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly called for a peaceful solution and talks to resolve the issue.

The maneuvers also come as Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to attend large-scale joint military exercises with Belarus that have alarmed neighboring states.

Moscow and Minsk say the Zapad 2017 maneuvers in Belarus and parts of western Russia involve 12,700 troops.

However, NATO expects the actual number could be up to 100,000 in what Western officials call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff over Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and its backing of separatists in the country’s east.

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, and Interfax
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