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China announces joint naval drills with Russia and Iran

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The ‘Security Bond-2023’ exercises in the Gulf of Oman seek to “inject positive energy” into the region, Beijing said

Russia, China and Iran are holding a five-day maritime exercise, seeking to bolster their naval security, Beijing’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday.

The ministry said the three-nation ‘Security Bond-2023’ wargames in the Gulf of Oman run from March 15 to 19, and that several unspecified countries will also be joining.

“This exercise will help deepen the practical cooperation between the navies of the participating countries, further demonstrate the willingness and ability to jointly maintain maritime security,” the ministry stated, adding that it will “inject positive energy into regional peace and stability”.

China’s guided-missile destroyer Nanning will be taking part, the ministry said, noting that ‘Security Bond-2023’ will build on the drills held by China, Russia and Iran in 2019 and 2022.

In late 2019, similar three-nation exercises took place in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, with a spokesman for the Iranian military, Abolfazl Shekarchi, saying the goal was to counter terrorism and piracy. In 2022, the ‘Security Bond’ maneuvers encompassed the northern part of the Indian Ocean and involved the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite branch of Tehran’s military.

Earlier this week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said cooperation between Moscow and Beijing had “reached a whole new level,” with the partnership serving as “one of the main deterrents to the aggressive activities of the United States and its henchmen in the Asia-Pacific region.”

In late February, China conducted another naval drill with Russia, along with South Africa. While Pretoria called it a means of increasing coordination between the three countries, Western media branded the move “controversial” in view of the Ukraine conflict.

The US also weighed in, with the White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre stating in January that Washington “has concerns about any country… exercising with Russia” as Moscow continues its military campaign in Ukraine.

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