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China to Host Russia in Joint Exercise, Senior Military Leaders Confirm in Talks

Russia will participate in a military drill organized by China, senior military leaders from the two countries confirmed in a video conference held on Friday, with observers saying that China-Russia joint strategic exercises could become routine.

Liu Zhenli, a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the Chief of Staff at the Joint Staff Department of the CMC, and Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, had a video conference on Friday, in which they exchanged views on the implementation of consensuses reached by the two heads of states and the deepening of cooperation between the two militaries, China’s Ministry of National Defense said in a press release on Friday.

The two sides confirmed together that Russia will respond to an invitation by China and participate in the Northern/Interaction-2023 exercise organized by China, according to the press release.

It will mark yet another military cooperation between China and Russia after the two countries just wrapped up the two-day sixth joint aerial strategic patrol in the Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday.

While the press release did not give more details on the Northern/Interaction-2023 exercise, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday that the drill will likely be the second China-Russia joint strategic exercise to be held in China.

In August 2021, China hosted Russia in the five-day Western/Interaction-2021 joint strategic exercise, also translated as the Zapad/Interaction or the Sibu/Interaction, in Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which featured a large number of ground and aviation forces and showed the two countries’ capabilities in jointly tackling regional security issues including terrorism as well as global challenges brought up by countries like the US.

Russia annually holds its own strategic exercises in four directions, namely the western Zapad, the southern Kavkaz, the central Tsentr and the eastern Vostok. Now that the China-Russia joint exercises have the Western/Interaction in 2021 and the Northern/Interaction in 2023, such drills could become regular and be held on a rotational basis similar to Russia’s own drills, focusing on military cooperation in different regions, the expert said.

The military cooperation between China and Russia is expected to continue to deepen, the expert said.

The video conference between Liu and Gerasimov came at a time when the US recently ramped up military provocations on China, including sending warships and warplanes to the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, selling weapons to the island of Taiwan, and holding joint exercises with regional allies including Japan and the Philippines targeting China, while also continued to fuel the Russia-Ukraine conflict with arms supplies to Ukraine.

Russia and China’s coordination efforts in the international arena has a stabilizing effect on the situation in the world, Gerasimov said in the video conference, according to a press release from Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

Armed forces of the two countries should continue to conduct joint activities in terms of operational and combat training, Gerasimov said.

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