Chinese troops will travel to Russia to take part in war games along with India, Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other largely anti-Western countries, China's defense ministry said on Wednesday, adding redundantly that China's participation in the joint exercises was "unrelated to the current international and regional situation." (Narrator: it is related.)
Last month, Moscow announced plans to hold "Vostok" (East) exercises from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, even as it wages war in Ukraine. It said at the time that some foreign forces would participate, without naming them. It turns out that the "foreign forces" account for just under half of the world's population.
China's defence ministry said its participation in the exercises was part of an ongoing bilateral annual cooperation agreement with Russia, Reuters reported.
"The aim is to deepen practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic collaboration among the participating parties, and strengthen the ability to respond to various security threats," the statement said.
What is perhaps most interesting about the news is that the war games will see India and China participate together, although as the Hindu times notes, it remains unclear if Indian and Chinese troops - hardly the closest of friends - will be present together or if they will participate in different drills, which will be spread across 13 different training grounds.
Indian and Chinese troops have remained in a stand-off that has lasted for more than two years along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh following the transgressions by the PLA in April 2020. Disengagement has taken place in some areas along the LAC but talks to restore the status quo in the remaining friction areas such as Hot Springs, Demchok, and Depsang have been slow moving.
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Beijing and Moscow have grown increasingly close especially following the start of the Ukraine war which Xi sees as a grand rehearsal for the invasion of Taiwan. Last August, Russia and China held joint military exercises in north-central China involving more than 10,000 troops. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu praised the Sibu/Cooperation-2021 drills in China's Ningxia and suggested they could be developed further.
In October, Russia and China held joint naval drills in the Sea of Japan. Days later, Russian and Chinese warships held their first joint patrols in the western Pacific. The next month, South Korea's military said it had scrambled fighter jets after two Chinese and seven Russian warplanes intruded into its air defense identification zone during what Beijing called regular training.
Just days before Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow announced a "no limits" partnership, although U.S. officials say they have not seen China evade U.S.-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.
Russia's eastern military district includes part of Siberia and has its headquarters in Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border.