Chinese and Russian troops will join forces with those from eight other nations later this month for a week-long military drill in southern Russia, Beijing said on Thursday.
The Kavkaz 2020 maritime and land exercises – Russia’s largest this year – would take place in the Astrakhan region, and the Black and Caspian seas from September 21 to 26, the defence ministry said.
The Chinese contingent would be drawn from the People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theatre Command, whose jurisdiction encompasses the country’s troubled border with India. As well as ground troops, it would encompass armoured vehicles and light weaponry, which would be flown direct to the drill locations, it said.
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The exercises would focus on defensive tactics, joint attack, encirclement, and battlefield control and command, the ministry said.
They were not directed at any third party or related to recent developments in the region, but instead designed to “move forward the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership … deepen practical cooperation in military training … and enhance the capacity of multinational forces to jointly respond to security threats, and safeguard regional peace and stability”, it said.
Besides the hosts and China, troops from Belarus, Iran, Pakistan, Armenia and Myanmar would take part, the ministry said, without identifying the three other nations taking part.
India was set to join the drills, but recently announced its withdrawal. The defence ministry in New Delhi said the decision was based on concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic but Indian media outlets quoted officials as saying it was also influenced by the renewed clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along their contested border.
Belarus’ participation comes as the country is facing international scrutiny over the anti-government protests that began after its president, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed a landslide election victory last month.
Despite huge opposition at home, Lukashenko has said he has Russian military backing, while Chinese President Xi Jinping was one of the first world leaders to offer him congratulations on his election win.
Since establishing a “comprehensive strategic partnership” two decades ago, China and Russia have increased their military and diplomatic cooperation, largely in a bid to counter US influence in the region.
Their militaries regularly hold joint exercises and they back each other at the United Nations on issues such as Syria and North Korea.
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This article Chinese troops to take part in Russia’s Kavkaz 2020 military exercises first appeared on South China Morning Post