The Royal Navy scrambled a warship to shadow a Chinese flotilla as it steamed through the English Channel en route to meet Russian vessels for manoeuvres in the Baltic Sea.
The trio of Chinese warships passed through the Strait of Dover under the watch of the HMS Richmond, a Type 23 frigate, at the weekend.
They then headed across the North Sea, where they were spotted being escorted by Dutch vessels earlier this week ahead of manoeuvres with Vladimir Putin’s navy which begin on Friday.
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said on Tuesday that the 052D, the country’s “most advanced guided-missile destroyer”, was taking part in the week-long joint drills.
The ship “is equipped with phased array radar and a vertical launching system”, the newspaper said.
Russian media say ten ships will take part in the first phase of the exercise, joined by more than 10 aircraft and helicopters.
The drills mark the first occasion that Chinese warships have ever carried out manoeuvres in the strategically important Baltic Sea.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy had just completed exercises in the Mediterranean, another show of strength from Beijing as it rapidly expands its military reach across the globe.
Professor Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert, told The Telegraph the Baltic Sea drills were aimed at Nato, but were being carried out in response to drills that were recently staged by the US, India and Japan in the Indian Ocean, which were directed towards China.
“China also has its own plans,” he added. “Which is to show the world that it is a major naval power.”
A Chinese naval fleet held a military exercise with the Russian navy in St Petersburg and Kaliningrad last month.
The two countries have held joint drills every year since 2012, and military officials in China said this year’s manoeuvres will focus on “joint rescue efforts and protecting cargo vessels”.
China and Russia both have veto powers on the UN Security Council, and regularly vote together on major issues such as the crisis in Syria. This position often puts them at odds with the United States and Western Europe.
Source: The Telegraph.