(AP) BEIJING – China and Russia will hold their first joint military exercise next year, the Chinese government said Monday, as President Hu Jintao called for an expansion of the rapidly growing alliance between the former Cold War rivals.
The announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who was expected to discuss expanding the Kremlin’s multibillion-dollar annual arms sales to China.
The exercises are to take place on Chinese territory, the official China News Service said. But that report and other government statements didn’t say when they would take place or what forces would be involved.
“We want … to promote the development of the two countries’ strategic collaborative relationship in order to safeguard and promote regional and world peace,” CNS quoted Hu as telling Ivanov.
Beijing and Moscow have built up military and political ties since the Soviet collapse in 1991, driven in part by joint desire to counterbalance U.S. global dominance.
They are partners of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, formed to combat what they consider the common threat of Islamic extremism and separatism. The other members are the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The announcement of military exercises comes two months after Beijing and Moscow settled the last of their decades-old border disputes that led to violent clashes in the 1960s and ’70s.
The agreement was signed during an October trip to Beijing by Russian President Vladimir Putin (news – web sites), who said relations had reached “unparalleled heights.” That visit also produced a pact to jointly develop Russian energy resources — an urgent issue for Beijing, which is trying to avert fuel shortages in its booming economy.
The frontier where at one point 700,000 Soviet troops faced 1 million Chinese soldiers is now a bustling cross-border market.
China has become the Russian arms industry’s No. 1 customer, and is expected to buy $2 billion in weapons this year.
Russia is a key supplier for the Chinese military’s effort to modernize its arsenal and back up frequent threats to invade Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its territory.
The United States and the European Union (news – web sites) have banned weapons sales to China since its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. But Moscow has supplied Beijing with high-performance Su-27 fighters and other top-of-the-line arms.
Ivanov also met with Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Guo Boxiong, deputy chairman of the Communist Party commission that runs China’s military, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Hu is chairman of the commission.
Hu is to visit Moscow in May during festivities commemorating the end of World War II.