08/18/2005, 00.00
CHINA – RUSSIA
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China-Russia war games under way, aimed at US

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Moscow and Beijing are holding joint war games in the Russian Pacific near Vladivostok, around the Chinese coastal province of Shandong and in the Yellow or West Sea. Code-named 'Peace Mission 2005', the exercise will run till August 25. Its objective is to "strengthen the capability of the two armed forces in jointly striking international terrorism, extremism and separatism", China's Xinhua news agency reported.

The exercise involves simulated land, sea and air operations with up to 1,800 Russian and 8,000 Chinese troops.

Both China and Russia have denied that the war games are directed at any "third party", but few doubt that they are intended to prepare the two countries to face terrorism in Central Asia, deter Taiwan and counter growing US influence in Asia.

Both Moscow and Beijing are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional forum that groups China and Russia with the Central Asian states and is intended to enhance border security and fight Islamic terrorism. Back in June, the group called on the US to set a timetable to withdraw its troops from Central Asia.

For some observers, the sophisticated amphibious and airborne operations and anti-ship manoeuvres can serve as training for either joint or unilateral operations in other scenarios—against Taiwan, Japan, further clashes over the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or over the energy riches of the Caspian Sea or other areas.

All indications are that Peace Mission 2005 will allow the Russians to showcase their weapons to the Chinese military, which already is Russia's largest customer for military sales. In 2004, Russia transferred more than .4 billion of military hardware to China, including Su-30MKK fighters and a Kilo class diesel-electric submarine.

At these war games, Russia is deploying Tu-95 strategic bombers and Tu-22M long-range bombers—warplanes that can carry conventional or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The aircrafts are expected to top Beijing's shopping list.

For Prof Ni Lexiong, a military expert with the Shanghai Normal University, the joint exercises are a defensive move prompted by America's growing involvement in Central Asia,

"The message from China and Russia is clear cut for the US: we have at least one card left in response to America's expansion of influence, that is military alliance," he said.

Both the US and Japan said they had been advised of the exercises, but their request to send observers was reportedly rejected by Beijing and Moscow.

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