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Russia, China stage joint naval drill in East China Sea

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MOSCOW/SHANGHAI (BNS): In a show of growing camaraderie and military might in the Asia Pacific region, the navies of Russia and China have kicked off a major maritime drill in the northern part of the East China Sea involving warships, submarines, aircraft and helicopters.

The drill, codenamed "Joint Sea-2014", began on May 20 in the East China Sea off Shanghai with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping attending the launch of the exercise.

A total of 14 surface ships, two submarines, nine airplanes, six shipboard helicopters and two operational detachments of marines are taking part in the drill, according to the Chinese Defence Ministry.

The two countries have staged similar drills twice off the coast of Russia's Far East in 2013 and in the Yellow Sea in 2012, but this is first time that their naval forces are being mingled together instead of marching separately.

In addition, the submarines and surface ships are set to confront each other. The countries' navies will conduct simulated defence and attack exercises, as well as escort duty, search and rescue operations and the freeing of hijacked ships, the Chinese MoD said in a statement.

While Russia has sent its guided-missile cruiser Varyag, China's Zhengzhou and Ningbo missile destroyers are taking part in the exercise which runs till May 26.

The military drill is being staged at a time when Russia has locked horns with Western powers over the Ukraine issue, and China is involved in bitter spat with several of its neighbours over maritime territory in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Putin and Jinping have also agreed to conduct joint military exercises in 2015 commemorating the 70th anniversary of the two countries' victory in World War II, according to Ria Novosti news agency.

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