Joint China-Russia war games prepare for live fire drills
BEIJING (AFP) Aug 22, 2005
Chinese and Russian military forces were Monday preparing a naval blockade and amphibious landing as part of a joint exercise involving nearly 10,000 personnel and a wide range of weaponry, state press said.
"Military vessels, fighter jets and amphibious tanks will start three-day live-ammunition combat practice tomorrow," a senior officer of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) was quoted by the China Daily as saying.
The two armies would focus on an offshore blockade involving guided missile destroyers and jet fighters, a joint amphibious landing by air force and marine paratroopers and a forced evacuation, the paper said.
This was due to take place when the third phase of the eight-day "Peace Mission 2005" exercise begins on Tuesday on east China's Shandong peninsula, the paper said.
During the second phase of the exercise, which ends Monday, the two sides engaged in joint command operations and the deployment of troops including paratroopers, press reports said.
Chinese state press said the exercise was taking place against the backdrop of "the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism" -- usually cited by China within the context of its endeavors to control the northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to a Muslim separatist movement.
But experts say the drills are more likely to be aimed at Taiwan. China considers the island part of its territory and threatens to invade if it formally declares independence.
"With amphibious landings and naval operations involved, I don't think that the purpose of these exercises is anti-terrorism," Arthur Ding, an expert on the PLA at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan, told AFP.
"China and Russia are sending a signal to Taiwan not to go down the road to independence and to the United States not to push them (China) into a corner by backing Taiwan independence forces."
According to a report last week in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the exercise is being funded by China and reflects a wish in Beijing to send a warning to Taiwan.
Some 7,000 Chinese troops and more than 1,800 Russians are involved in the drills.
The first phase of the exercise, involving warships, submarines, bombers, helicopters and fighter planes, began Thursday near the city of Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific coast.
Russian equipment that would be tested in the drill included the Il-76 transport plane, Il-78 refueling plane, A-50 early warning plane, Tu-95 MS and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers, Su-24M2 bomber, and Su-27SM fighter jet, the paper said.
Chinese hardware used in the drill was not specified.
Washington, which has indicated unease over the pace of China's military build-up, has said it was closely monitoring the drills and warned that they should not undermine regional stability.
Sino-Russian relations improved markedly following the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Russia is now China's leading arms supplier.
China has stepped up its military exchanges, especially with neighboring countries, in recent years.
The People's Daily reported that its armed forces have conducted joint drills with foreign armies 12 times since October 2002.
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