Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 07, 2016, p. 1
Russia and China are completing preparation of joint naval exercises Sea Interaction-2016 that are to take place in the South China Sea from September 11 until September 19.
MOSCOW AND BEIJING WILL CONDUCT JOINT EXERCISES NEAR DISPUTED TERRITORIES IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA
Russia and China are completing preparation of joint naval exercises Sea Interaction-2016 that are to take place in the South China Sea from September 11 until September 19. Although such exercises are organized for the fifth time the navies of Russia and China will use the most conflict area in the Asia-Pacific region for the first time. Interests of Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Philippines clash there because of the disputed islands controlled by China.
The upcoming Russian-Chinese exercises became a subject of conversations behind the closed doors at the G20 summit in Chinese Hangzhou. On Monday, President Vladimir Putin announced that Sea Interaction-2016 exercises “do not touch anyone’s interests and are useful for security of both Russia and China.” Against this background, the press service of the Pacific Fleet reports that a group consisting of big antisubmarine ships Admiral Tributs, Admiral Vinogradov, big landing ship Peresvet, sea tug Alatau and tanker Pechenga is currently performing a voyage to the South China Sea. It is planned to conduct Maritime Interaction-2016 exercises there at naval base Zhanjiang. The press release especially emphasizes that the exercises “are aimed at strengthening of practical cooperation of fleets of the two countries and counteraction to various threats in the sea.”
Commander of the American Pacific Fleet Admiral Scott Swift characterizing the upcoming exercises already accused China and Russia of “a wish to aggravate the already difficult situation in the South China Sea.” But it is necessary to find out who “aggravates” the situation in realty. Pentagon does not hide that US ships will patrol the South China Sea on the permanent basis. American weekly Navy Times reported recently that there were destroyers Stethem, Spruance and Momsen of the US Navy near the disputed islands of Nansha (Spratly) and Huangyan (Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea. The weekly quoted representative of the Pacific Command of the US armed forces Lieutenant Clint Ramsden who called actions of the destroyers “regular presence” in the region. According to sources of the weekly, the US navy has seven ships in the region: aircraft-carrier Ronald Reagan, two cruisers and four destroyers. American strike nuclear submarine USS Mississippi armed with cruise missiles also patrols these waters.
Official spokesperson of the Chinese Defense Ministry Yang Yujun already announced that “nobody can intimidate the Chinese armed forces.” According to him, if foreign ships are going “to create problems on an empty space,” Beijing “naturally has possibilities that allow coping with this.” It seems that Russia helps the Chinese to cope with the American threat now through participation in joint naval exercises in the South China Sea. According to official information provided by the press service of the Pacific Fleet, the script of Maritime Interaction-2016 exercises reflects real problems that may appear on disputed islands that are controlled by China now. For example, it is reported that besides working out of combat tasks in the sea at the final stage of Maritime Interaction-2016 “it is also planned to perform joint sea and air landing operations on a conventionally occupied island.”
Moscow did not report officially if it supported the actions of China on disputed islands. But it was known that on July 12 the international tribunal created with mediation of the permanent chamber of the arbitration court in the Hague decreed that China had “no historic right” for the disputed territories in the South China Sea (Sisha Archipelago – Paracels Islands, Nansha – Spratly islands and Huangyan – Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea). After this very verdict American ships appeared near the disputed islands in the South China Sea. This did not scare the Chinese.
What is the interest of Russia that organizes joint exercise with China near the disputed areas? Chinese military expert Sun Junping says that the upcoming Maritime Interaction-2016 exercises “have to restore balance in the region breached earlier by cooperation of the US and Japan.” He reminded that earlier Russia and China “conducted joint exercises in the Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan, Eastern China and Mediterranean seas.” According to him, “The South China Sea provides much bigger opportunities and this time training will have a bigger scale.” The expert mentions “aspiration of Moscow to act on the side of Beijing in exchange for economic, political and geopolitical support of China in conditions of sanctions of the West.”