Six Russian and three Chinese naval ships will meet in the Mediterranean next month to conduct a series of surface exercises to include live fire drills, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday.
Joint Sea 2015-I will be the first time the two navies have trained in the Mediterranean and is a sign of deepening military-to-military cooperation between Russia and China.
“The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia and to improve the capabilities of the two navies to deal with maritime threats,” said ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng on Thursday.
“What needs to be stressed is that, the joint exercise is not targeting any third party and not related to the regional situation.”
The exercises were announced in November following a meeting between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan in Beijing.
Following the meeting, Shoigu said U.S. rebalance to the Pacific was a primary concern of both countries.
“We believe that the main goal of pooling our effort is to shape a collective regional security system,” according to the Russian TASS news agency.
“We also expressed concern over U.S. attempts to strengthen its military and political clout in the [Asia-Pacific Region].”
China plans to send the Type 54A Jiangkai II frigates Linyi, Weifang and fleet oiler Weishanhu — currently performing merchant convoy duty off of the Gulf of Aden — to the exercise, Geng said.
It’s unclear what assets Russia will send.
“The drilling items in the exercise include maritime defense, maritime replenishment, escort actions, joint operations to safeguard navigation security as well as real weapon firing drill,” he said.
In addition to the Mediterranean exercise, China and Russia committed to a Pacific exercise later in 2015.
Since the forced annexation of Crimea and a souring relationship with the West, Russia has flexed its surface muscle more in the last year sending more ships further afield than it has in decades — including sending the guided missile cruiser Moscow (or Moskva) to conduct live fire drills in the South China Sea.
Likewise, China continues to venture beyond its regional waters conducting anti-piracy missions near Somalia and drilling with the Iranian Navy.
China and Russia began a regular exercise schedule in 2012 and have since drilled in the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea.