Russia sends six heavy bombers, 1,800 troops to joint military exercises with China

Six Russian long-range bombers will participate in joint military maneuvers with China later this month, and the two countries are expected to hold larger exercises in the future, Russian military officials said Wednesday.

But Col. Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi, deputy chief of Russia's Land Forces in charge of the exercise, said that the two nations had no intention of creating a joint group of forces in the Pacific region.

"We aren't creating such a group, we don't have such plans, at least I don't know anything about them," Moltenskoi said.

The Aug. 18-25 exercises on the Shandong peninsula, on the Yellow Sea, underscore growing military ties between the two former Cold War rivals, who have developed a "strategic partnership" cemented by their joint wariness of the United States and its wide influence on global affairs.

Russian officials have said about 10,000 troops - 1,800 of them Russian - will take place in the exercise, in which the Shandong poses as an imaginary state riven by warring parties that Russia and China will move to separate.

Russia will also field a navy squadron, including submarines, and practice air and sea landings.

Moltenskoi said Wednesday that two Tu-95 strategic bombers and four Tu-22M long-range bombers will also take part in the exercise on the peninsula, located about 440 kilometers (275 miles) southeast of Beijing.

The Tu-95s will conduct demonstration flights over the area while the Tu-22Ms will test-fire missiles at ground targets, Moltenskoi said.

Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the head of the Russian armed forces general staff, said the long-range bombers will be participating because the region is far away from Russian air bases.

But earlier this year, Russia's air force chief said that the reason for engaging strategic bombers in the drill was to generate Chinese interest in buying the aircraft. Both types of bombers are capable of hitting distant targets with long-haul conventional or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the AP reports.

"The navy can and must be engaged in blocking parts of the territory of this state," Baluyevsky was quoted as saying by the Izvestia daily newspaper. "And aircraft can be used for blocking it from the air."

Earlier news reports suggested the exercise might be held near Taiwan, which would make it look like a rehearsal for a Chinese invasion of the island that Beijing claims as part of its territory. China has threatened repeatedly to attack if the island pursues formal independence.

Moscow and Beijing insisted that the exercise, the first such drill ever, was not aimed at any third country.

Baluyevsky also said "such maneuvers could be held on a larger scale in the future."

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