China in Baltic navy drill with Russia

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Chinese Type 052D destroyer off Hong Kong, 7 Jul 17Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Chinese Type 052D destroyers carry cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and torpedoes

Three Chinese warships are in the Baltic to start China's first naval exercises with Russia in the region.

The Chinese destroyer, frigate and supply ship will spend a week training with the Russian navy off Kaliningrad, a highly militarised Russian exclave.

The destroyer called Hefei is a new Type 052D bristling with missiles.

Russia is deploying two new corvettes, some other ships and military aircraft in the drills. Anti-submarine, anti-ship and rescue drills are planned.

Chinese-Russian military drills have been held every year since 2012, but they are conducting them in the Baltic for the first time, closely watched by Nato.

The Western alliance has boosted its forces in Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Nato accuses Russia of provocative military manoeuvres in the region.

There is much anxiety in the three Baltic states - formerly part of the Soviet Union - because of Russia's role in the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian defence ministry says the most intensive drills with China will be from 25 to 27 July, and Russian will be the operational language. Russia's Baltic Fleet is based at Baltiysk.

China's Type 052D destroyers are packed with weapons systems, including cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and torpedoes. The Hefei became operational in December 2015.

An article in China's People's Daily said the joint training "is just a regular activity held every other year and is not aimed at any third party or current situations".

The aim is to develop the Chinese-Russian "comprehensive strategic partnership", it said.

"China's use of the North Sea area is lawful and reasonable. Nato probably feels defensive in the face of the joint manoeuvres and certainly wishes China-Russia co-operation weakened," the article added, quoting an unnamed "observer".