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China confirms planned military exercise with Russia

  Agence France Presse

BEIJING, July 11



China confirmed Thursday it is planning rare joint military exercises with Russia in August, but sought to play down their significance, saying the maneuvers were not aimed at a third country.


The exercise, which will take place along the Inner Mongolia region's border with Russia, is based on a 1994 treaty aimed at preventing incidents between troops from the two sides, the foreign ministry in Beijing said.


"The purpose of the exercise is to test the reliability of the signal communication process set forth in the treaty," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a press briefing. "It will not target any third country." Liu said the exercise was to ensure security and stability in the region, denying reports in foreign media that it would be a large-scale operation involving land, sea and air elements.


He said the exercise would take place "on a unit basis", but gave no details about the size or type of military troops to be involved.


The exercise was still in the planning stage, with the two sides engaging in "negotiations and consultations" on the issue, he said.


Similar exercises had been held before, he said.


"In order to act on the treaty, in recent years the two sides have staged military exercises to prevent dangerous military activities on a unit basis."


The treaty in question was signed in July 1994 by the Russian and Chinese defense ministers in order to prevent "dangerous military activities".


The topics it covers includes the jamming of communications equipment, although it was unclear from Liu's comments if this will be the specific area targeted in the mid-August maneuvers.


China signed a similar agreement on the prevention of border incidents with Russia and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in April 1996.


China's government-run Qianlong News website earlier this week said the exercises would also involve participation by Central Asian states and be aimed at fighting organized terrorism in the region.


Giving a very different explanation to the foreign ministry, the website said the exercises could lay the basis for future Sino-Russian cooperation aimed at opposing the planned US anti-ballistic missile defense shield.


The upcoming joint military exercises were agreed to in May by the defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China, Russia and four Central Asian states, the website said.


They would be of limited scope and would not have a centralized command, while troops of different countries would not interact with each other, military experts told the website.


The defense ministers agreed on the joint exercises in view of the recent US bombing of alleged terrorist sites in Afghanistan and because of the need to jointly fight terrorism in Central Asia, it said.


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