MOSCOW, October 23 (Reuters) – Russian and Chinese warships carried out their first joint patrols in the western Pacific Ocean last week, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday, an initiative that Japan said it was watching.
Moscow and Beijing, which held naval cooperation exercises in the Sea of Japan in early October, have forged closer military and diplomatic ties in recent years at a time when their relations with the West have deteriorated. .
The naval maneuvers, which Russia said ran from Sunday to Saturday, were closely watched by Japan, which said earlier in the week that a group of 10 Chinese and Russian ships crossed the Tsugaru Strait. separating the main island of Japan and its northern island of Hokkaido.
“The group of ships crossed the Tsugaru Strait for the first time as part of the patrol,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The strait is considered international waters.
“The tasks of the patrols were the demonstration of the flags of the Russian and Chinese states, the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the supervision of the subjects of the maritime economic activities of the two countries,” the ministry added.
China’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the joint exercise was aimed at “further developing the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era, enhancing the joint action capabilities of the two sides, and jointly maintaining international strategic stability. and regional “.
A report posted on the ministry’s website said the operation was part of the annual cooperation between the two countries and did not target third parties.
Japanese defense officials said on Sunday that Russian and Chinese ships also crossed the Osumi Strait off the southern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima, state broadcaster NHK reported.
Foreign ships are allowed to navigate the Straits of Osumi and Tsugaru as they are international waterways, but Japan’s Defense Ministry said it would monitor the two navies, calling the recent measures “unusual” , NHK reported.
Japanese officials could not be reached immediately for comment.
Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; Additional reporting by Dominique Patton in Beijing and Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo; Editing by Peter Graff and William Mallard
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