Chinese navy ships to enter Baltic Sea for first time for exercises

In this May 24, 2014 photo, China’s Harbin (112) guided missile destroyer takes part in a week-long China-Russia “Joint Sea-2014” navy exercise at the East China Sea off Shanghai, China. Several Asian nations are arming up, their wary eyes fixed squarely on one country: a resurgent China that’s boldly asserting its territorial claims all along the East Asian coast. The scramble to spend more defense dollars comes amid spats with China over contested reefs and waters. Other Asian countries such as India and South Korea are quickly modernizing their forces, although their disputes with China have stayed largely at the diplomatic level. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

Chinese navy ships will enter the Baltic Sea on Friday for the first time to hold joint exercises with Russia, amid Western suspicions over the exercises’ purpose.

A Chinese expert said the drills are meant to help both sides better protect cargo vessels in different waters along with the development of the Belt and Road initiative.

The first stage of Joint Sea-2017 will be held from July 21 to 28 in the Baltic Sea, Russian news agency Sputnik reported Tuesday, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.

Nearly 10 ships, over 10 aircraft and helicopters from the Russian and Chinese navy will join the exercises in the first phase, Sputnik said.

China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer, the 052D, which is equipped with phased array radar and a vertical launching system, will also participate in the drills.

Chinese 052D Class Guided-Missile Destroyer

“This is the Chinese navy’s first time to enter the Baltic Sea, a high-latitude sea,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times, adding that the drills will help China manage maritime threats in the future.

The Baltic Sea is a significant maritime trade route between Russia and Europe, with possible confrontations among countries, such as the US and Russia, Li said. He noted that Russia had shifted its attention from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region in recent years from US pressure, and it wants to use the region as a breakthrough to deal with the US.

Jens Stoltenberg, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) secretary general, said in June that NATO would closely monitor Russia’s military exercises close to the Baltic countries’ border, calling for transparency in the joint China-Russia drills and joint drills between Russia and Belarus in September.

However, Li stressed that the Baltic Sea drills between China and Russia are meant to help them deal with possible threats, protect ships and cargo in waters in the future with the development of the Belt and Road initiative as well as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

China and Russia have held joint drills every year since 2012. The Chinese Ministry of National Defense said that this year’s exercises will focus on joint rescue efforts and protecting cargo vessels.

Source: Global Times.

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