China and Russia are 'answering' recent US-Japan drills with provocative military exercises of their own in regional waters.
On Sunday the US, South Korea and Japan conducted joint naval missile defense exercises chiefly aimed at North Korea's latest missile threats, which include the launch of an ICBM days ago. Pyongyang called the Wednesday launch off its east coast a "strong practical warning" to enemies. But Japan's closer defense coordination with Washington has also put Beijing on notice. China's defense ministry over the weekend confirmed that PLA naval vessels have set sail in preparation for new exercises with Russia.
This includes Beijing sending five Chinese warships, including a guided-missile destroyer, to participate in the new exercises with Russian forces - but without specifying an exact location for the drills.
Last month both countries conducted joint air patrol over the Seas of Japan and East China, demonstrating their deepened ties, also amid the war in Ukraine which Beijing has yet to outright condemn, to the frustration of the West.
China has considered itself 'neutral' concerning the Ukraine conflict while at the same time highlighting the dangers of NATO expansion east. For this reason Washington has accused it of quietly supporting Moscow.
Bloomberg has meanwhile cited US sanctions and punitive measures aimed at both Beijing and Moscow as a chief motivator to grow militarily closer.
"China and the armed forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted six joint military exercises together last year, the most in data going back two decades," the publication notes.
"That accounted for two-thirds of all of China’s drills with foreign militaries in 2022, according to data compiled by the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the U.S. National Defense University (NDU)."
But Russia and China have conducted naval drills in other global hotspots as well, in the last months holding naval exercises with Iran in the Persian Gulf region.
The Chinese naval flotilla warships have set sail!— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) July 15, 2023
The China-Russia joint military drills this time will deepen the two militaries’ strategic coordination, and enhance their ability to jointly deal with various security threats. pic.twitter.com/0etCziT9Xq
Moscow has also over the course of the Ukraine war deepened its ties with the Islamic Republic, and even established an Iranian drone manufacturing plant on its soil in southern Russia. President Putin has in the face of the West's sanctions and efforts to impose total isolation turned to 'pariah' states like Iran to keep up its military tech needs, such as in the areas of drones and missiles.