By Jonathan Wade, CD — The Sentinel
The joint training between Russia and China is currently underway in the South China Sea. Deemed Joint-Sea 2016, the exercise is an eight-day series of war games near the Guangdong Province.
Held in the waters east of Zhanjiang, the maritime exercise is taking place near the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s South China Sea Fleet headquarters.
Featuring destroyers, submarines, fighter jets, ship-borne helicopters and marines, the two countries will conduct defence, rescue and anti-submarine operations. As for the marines, they will conduct an island-landing and island-seizing operation.
In total, more than 18 ships and supply vessels, 21 aircraft and over 250 service personnel will take part in Joint-Sea 2016. Two Russian Udaloy-class destroyers from the Pacific Fleet — the Admiral Vinogradov and Admiral Tributs — will take part in the exercises.
According to the Chinese navy, the marines will participate in live-fire drills, island defence and landing operations in the largest joint operation ever taken by the two countries’ navies.
"We will thoroughly take part in the exercises and execute the tasks set by our superiors. The conditions of the exercises will be as close to real combat as possible and will aim to increase our common security capabilities," China’s People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Deputy Command Wang Hai said.
Called a routine exercise by China, Joint-Sea 2016 aims at strengthening co-operation and interoperability, and is not aimed at any other country.
"Our cooperation is not directed against anyone, but it seeks to defend out common interests, ensure security across all areas of the world's oceans…This is cooperation in the fight against piracy and in support of navigation," Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov said during a welcoming ceremony for the arriving Russian ships.
However, an island-seizing exercise could be a message sent to Japan in regards to the Senkaku Islands — known in China as the Diaoyus — in the East China Sea.
Russia joined China in saying that it was inappropriate for the United States to interfere in other countries’ affairs, especially when it comes to the South China Sea. Talking on the sidelines during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed on China’s position on the South China Sea.
The military exercise comes at a time where the United States is demanding that China adhere to the ruling of The Hague international tribunal, invalidating Beijing’s claims to large portions of the South China Sea. Last July, the tribunal rejected China’s South China Sea claim.
Russian and China have been actively conducting joint training and exercises since 2005.
Jonathan Wade served in the Canadian Forces for 14 years and is a combat veteran of Afghanistan. He owns The Sentinel, a blog on Canada, Russia and the Arctic. Specialized in military and foreign affairs, his military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war, and has a fondness for technical details. Join Jonathan’s community on Twitter@JonathanWadeCD.