Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping
MOSCOW, May 20. /ITAR-TASS/. Officially declared goal of the Russian-Chinese naval exercise Joint Sea 2014 that started on Tuesday in the East China Sea is strengthening the fleets’ practical cooperation and countering various threats at sea.
Meanwhile, experts say that despite the absence of a de jure military alliance, de facto its elements are discernible. Either way, the training is an element of the two countries’ efforts to develop strategic partnership.
The exercise involves 12 ships, six on either side. According to the head of training on the Russian side, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Vice-Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov, “one of the exercises’ chief goals is training the Russian and Chinese crews in the spirit of friendship, mutual understanding and cooperation”.
Joint Sea is held for the third time. Last-year training took place in the Sea of Japan with about 20 ships taking part, when, the media said, Russia and China were flexing muscles amid the territorial dispute between China and a number of its neighbors, including the Philippines and Vietnam.
This year’s exercises are also of particular importance for China, as they are taking place amid the persisting tensions between Tokyo and Beijing not far from the disputed Senkaku Islands known as the Diaoyu islands in China. The US has taken a pro-Japanese position on the issue. Experts differ over the political meaning of the military maneuvers.
“The Russian-Chinese military training is an evidence of strategic partnership between Russia and China, they are not aimed against Japan or any other country,” Deputy Director of the Russian Research Center of the Asian Pacific Cooperation Forum at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Gleb Ivashentsov told ITAR-TASS.
Military alliance is now excluded, the expert believes, as neither of the parties is posing a question like that.
If the US sticks to its rigid confrontation policy in Asia, China could quit its “friendly neutrality” in favor of a more overt support for Russia’s policy, believes Deputy Director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergeш Luzyanin. While on a visit to Japan recently, Barack Obama said the islands in dispute were entirely under Japan’s sovereignty, the expert told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily.
Moreover, the US almost went as far as to threaten military assertion of Japanese interests, since the islands in question are part of the Security Treaty between the US and Japan. The expert believes there were plans to establish a kind of a collective Asian equivalent of NATO confronting China. The US has been trying to involve the Philippines and Vietnam into this scheme.
“If this trend gains momentum and Beijing clearly understands that a hostile military and political bloc is being established on its southern borders de facto and de jure and is even carrying out active military operations, the form of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership will certainly alter,” the expert believes. “It will hardly come to a military alliance, but the logic of international affairs hints unambiguously that the content of the 2001 strategic partnership and interaction treaty between Moscow and Beijing will need revision,” he added.
Luzyanin does not rule out the treaty could be complemented with new security and strategic cooperation provisions in the following 3-5 years.
“A military alliance de jure between Russia and China is unlikely. Yet de facto, there is Article 9 of a major strategic partnership agreement that mentions security consultations in case of a threat for one of the parties,” said Luzyanin. “Clearly, this article can be expanded and revised. The annual large-scale Russian-Chinese military training on land and at sea have already become a tradition. We can say that Moscow and Beijing are not in a military alliance but de facto we can see its elements," the expert concluded.
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