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CCP, Russia send message with resumption of aerial military exercises in Indo-Pacific

CCP, Russia send message with resumption of aerial military exercises in Indo-Pacific

FORUM Staff

A joint Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-Russia military exercise over the Indo-Pacific in late May 2022 was the fourth such aerial drill since November 2021, Japanese officials say. But it was the first operation of its kind since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The latest patrol shows the two autocracies remain committed to their “no limits” friendship and growing strategic partnership despite the Russian assault that much of the world has condemned, Western leaders say.

The 13-hour flight of CCP Xian H-6 bombers and Russian Tu-95 bombers over the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea), the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea came as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) leaders wrapped up a summit in Tokyo. Japan and South Korea scrambled fighter jets to shadow the bombers for part of the exercise. (Pictured: Three F-15s of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, foreground, and four F-16s of the United States Armed Forces fly over the Sea of Japan on May 25, 2022, apparently responding to a CCP-Russia military exercise.)

The Quad meeting included the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. Among other matters, they discussed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which observers say could be a prelude to the CCP invading self-governed Taiwan, which it claims as its territory.

Taiwan says Chinese military aircraft have entered its air defense identification zone repeatedly in the past two years to assess Taiwan’s response and to wear down the island’s forces, which routinely scramble jets to monitor the incursions, according to Reuters.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called the latest joint military exercise a likely provocation by Beijing and Moscow. Tokyo conveyed “grave concerns” to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia, Kishi said.

The Chinese defense ministry responded that the operation was part of an “annual military cooperation plan.”

Observers maintain the timing of the military exercise, during the Quad summit and at the conclusion of U.S. President Joe Biden’s five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, was no coincidence. The PRC claims the Quad is akin to an “Asian NATO,” though the group has no mutual-defense pact.

“The combined fact that China and Russia were willing to go through this exercise while the Quad meeting was underway in Japan and as events continue to unfold in Ukraine indicates the depth of their partnership and demonstrates that we should only expect it to deepen in the months ahead,” David O. Shullman, senior director of the Global China Hub at the nonprofit Atlantic Council think tank, told The Washington Post.

Japan’s military scrambled its aircraft more than 1,000 times responding to incursions by foreign planes, many of them Chinese, during a yearlong period ending in March 2022, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Russia has staged other military drills with the Chinese, including a long-range air patrol in 2019, according to Reuters. In August 2021, they conducted exercises in China with more than 10,000 troops.

The PRC has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Along with discussing Ukraine, Quad leaders called for a free, open, inclusive and healthy Indo-Pacific rooted in international law and “anchored by democratic values and unconstrained by coercion.”

IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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