Russia, China To Kick Off Military Exercises – Report—report

BEIJING (AFP)–China and Russia are set to begin massive joint military drills aimed at fighting terrorism and ethnic separatism, state media said Tuesday, after deadly ethnic unrest in China’s Xinjiang region.

The five-day exercises starting Wednesday, dubbed Peace Mission 2009, involve a wide variety of military aircraft and airborne assault units, the People’s Liberation Army Daily reported.

“The Sino-Russian joint military anti-terrorist exercise is a major action aimed at confronting international terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism,” the paper said.

The exercises aren’t aimed at any third country, it stressed.

Up to 1,300 soldiers from each side will participate in the exercises that will be headquartered in China’s northeastern province of Jilin, near the two nation’s common border, the paper said.

Up to 22 Russian planes and 40 Chinese military aircraft, including fighter- bombers, armed helicopters, and transport planes, will participate, press reports said.

The two nations held joint exercises in 2005 and 2007 under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security group consisting of China, Russia and four Central Asian states.

China has blamed “separatist forces” for deadly unrest that began on July 5 and that left at least 197 people dead in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, a vast desert region bordering several central Asian countries.

Xinjiang is home to more than eight million ethnic Uighur Muslims, many of whom complain of decades of repression by China.

The run-up to the exercises was marred Sunday when an advanced Chinese fighter-bomber crashed in Jilin province. Both pilots of the plane are thought to have been killed, state press reports said.

Russia has been the main supplier of arms to China since the two countries normalized their relations in 1989, the same year that Washington imposed an arms ban on Beijing.

In recent years, the countries have taken great strides to step up trade and put old Cold War rivalries behind them, ending a decades-long dispute over their 4,300-kilometer border just last year.

  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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