BEIJING: China and Russia on Friday joined a naval exercise hosted by South Africa in the Indian Ocean, with experts saying that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aims to safeguard peace and stability in the region and protect sea lanes for commercial ships amid its intensive efforts to restore exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries, including opening a destroyer at an international expo in Abu Dhabi, after such interactions were hindered by the pandemic in recent years.
Despite the hyping from Western countries saying the exercise is “controversial,” analysts said it is not related to conflicts or tensions elsewhere in the world, and China can conduct joint drills with any friendly countries it wants.
Codenamed Mosi-2, the joint naval exercise began in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa on Friday, said South Africa’s Defense Ministry, Russian news agency Tass reported on the day.
The trilateral exercise will benefit all participating countries by aligning their operational naval systems and improving joint command and control, Tass quoted South Africa’s Minister of Defense and Military Veterans Thandi Modise as saying.
The drills will run until February 27, with China sending a destroyer, a frigate and a support ship, South Africa represented by a frigate and two support ships, and Russia deploying a frigate and a tanker, according to Tass, which also noted that the Russian frigate will demonstrate the Zircon hypersonic missile.
It is the second time the three countries have held a joint naval exercise, with the first one held in November 2019 in the southwest of South Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, reported Tass.
The joint drills will contribute to peace and stability in the region, as the three countries have common interests in protecting sea lanes involving key commercial activities in the Indian Ocean from piracy and other security threats, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times on Friday.
Western countries and their media have been hyping the exercise as “controversial,” citing the Russia-Ukraine conflict, South Africa’s refusal to condemn and impose sanctions on Russia, and tensions over the Taiwan question.
But these are just accusations that the West has made against this peacefully intended exercise, the expert said.
The drill is not related to any other ongoing situation, and it is also very normal for China to conduct joint exercises with friendly countries, the expert said.
Also on Friday, the PLA Navy’s Type 052D guided missile destroyer Nanning arrived in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, to participate in the Naval Defense and Maritime Security Exhibition (NAVDEX) under the invitation of the UAE military.
The Nanning will conduct friendly interactions including seminars, visits and sports competitions with the navy of the UAE and vessels from other countries participating in NAVDEX, and will be open to the general public, Senior Colonel Liu Wensheng, a PLA Navy spokesperson, announced on Thursday.
The Nanning is part of the PLA Navy’s 43rd naval escort task force to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, and has just participated in the AMAN-23 multinational maritime exercise, which was hosted by Pakistan and attended by some 50 countries from February 10 to Tuesday.
Intensive foreign interactions, including participation in joint drills and international exhibitions, show that the PLA is proactively boosting its military exchange and cooperation with other countries in the post-COVID era, as it continues to open to the world, providing positive factors to enhance understanding and manage differences, experts said.