Large-scale war games in the South China Sea by Chinese and Russian naval forces included practice for taking over islands in the disputed waters and appear part of efforts by both states to counter the U.S. pivot to Asia.
The exercises began Sept. 13 and concluded Monday. Dubbed Joint Sea-2016, the Chinese and Russian naval maneuvers involved the use of both warships, aircraft and marines in practice combat operations – a clear sign Beijing continues gearing up for a future military conflict with the United States over China’s expansive maritime territorial claims.
It was the largest joint exercises since the two navies began holding the war games and the first in the contested South China Sea. Chinese military officials described the war games as “a strategic measure” aimed at increasing military and especially naval cooperation.
State-run Chinese and Russian news reports provided a glimpse into some of the operations that took place in three phases, the largest of which involved naval live fire drills, and anti-submarine warfare and air defense maneuvers. Details of the island-seizure practice were omitted in state-controlled media reports from both countries.
A total of 13 warships took part, including guided-missile destroyers, frigates, landing ships, supply ships and significantly – two submarines. The two Chinese submarines were not identified by type but were used in anti-submarine exercises.
Aircraft included 11 Chinese fixed-wing warplanes and eight helicopters. A total of 160 Chinese marines also participated.
Russia dispatched three warships, two supply vessels, two helicopters and 96 marines, along with armored amphibious tanks.
The war games took place not far from the disputed Paracels claimed by China, Vietnam and others.
So this is what becomes of the international waters of the South China Sea when post-America opts out of its leadership role.