China and Russia to hold joint navy drills next week

In this April 21, 2019, photo, Russian sailors stand on the deck of the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov as it docks at a port in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Thursday, April 25, 2019, that naval drills between China and Russia will be held off the eastern port city of Qingdao next week. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING (AP) — China said Thursday that it will hold joint naval drills with Russia next week, in another sign that the countries' militaries are growing closer in the face of shared opposition to U.S. military dominance.

The "Joint Sea 2019" drills will be held off the northern port city of Qingdao, Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at a monthly briefing. Taking place from Monday to Saturday, they will feature ships and submarines along with fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and marine units.

Ren described the drills as "joint maritime defensive operations" aimed at "strengthening the two navies' capability to commonly address maritime security threats."

"The exercise does not target any third parties," Ren said.

Bonded by a common rivalry with the U.S., Moscow and Beijing have forged what they describe as a "strategic partnership," expressing their shared opposition to the "unipolar" world — a term they use to describe perceived U.S. global dominance.

Last September, about 3,200 Chinese troops joined Russia's largest-ever war games in Siberia, in which nearly 300,000 Russian troops conducted drills.

China's People's Liberation Army Navy marked its 70th anniversary this week with a fleet review attended by President Xi Jinping, who is also head of the armed forces and has expanded the country's military might. Last year, Xi said the mission of transforming China's navy into a "first-rate world navy" has "never been more urgent."

China has taken an aggressive approach to its territorial claims in the South China Sea, where it has built military installations on man-made islands in the waters claimed by several other nations. Military experts describe that as a strategy of "anti-access area denial" to prevent foreign militaries — especially the U.S. Navy — from intervening over a crisis such as a Chinese attack on Taiwan, the self-governing island China claims as its own territory.

To achieve those goals, it is also building ships at a faster rate than any other country, with many, such as its latest 10,000-ton displacement type 055 guided missile destroyer, boasting cutting-edge combat capabilities.