China and Russia start largest-ever joint military drills

Russia and China began joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan on Friday, as Beijing's non-violent territorial disputes with regional neighbors, especially Japan and the Philippines, remain unresolved.

The operation, called "Joint-Sea-2013," is expected to include 11 Russian warships and 7 Chinese vessels, including four destroyers, two guided missile frigates and a support ship in what Beijing has called its largest-ever drill with a foreign nation.

Relations between China and Japan have been strained over their joint claim on a set of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that border strategic shipping lanes, fishing grounds and possibly rich oil deposits.

"The joint drill conducted by the two militaries of China and Russia do not target any third parties," Gen. Fang Fenghui, the People's Liberation Army chief, said in China's Liberation Army Daily, the Associated Press reported

"Their aim is to deepen cooperation between the two militaries in the training field, boost capacity in coordinating military activities, and serve the purpose of safeguarding regional security and stability," the general added.

The two militaries will from July 5-12 practice close maneuvering, anti-submarine warfare, anti-aircraft defense, freeing a ship captured by pirates, and search and rescue operations, according to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

Last year marked the first time Russia and China conducted joint military drills. Next year, China's growing navy will participate in the US-led international Rim of the Pacific drills, the world's largest naval exercise.