Generals Insist Exercises Not a Threat

APGenerals Liang Guanglie, left, and Yury Baluyevsky saluting at a World War II memorial in Vladivostok on Thursday.
VLADIVOSTOK -- Russia and China kicked off their first-ever joint military exercises Thursday as top commanders from both countries issued repeated assurances that the war games were not intended as a threat to anyone.

Top generals started the exercises at a meeting at the Pacific Fleet headquarters in Vladivostok.

The two nations in coming days will practice coordinating a joint force that will stage a mock invasion next week on China's Shandong Peninsula in the Yellow Sea, using air, sea and land forces to simulate a mission stabilizing a restive country. Under the premise of the drills, which have been named "Peace Mission 2005," the forces have a UN mandate.

The war games are the result of strengthening ties meant to counter U.S. dominance of world affairs, as well as Russian worries over a series of uprisings in several former Soviet republics that have led to the overthrow of unpopular regimes. "The exercises are the logical continuation of the first signs of cooperation between Russia and China in the struggle against 'orange revolutions,' separatism and the dominant influence of the U.S. in the Euroasiatic sphere," wrote Thursday.

In an inauguration ceremony for the exercises, the commanders of the general staffs of Russia and China laid wreaths at a World War II memorial.

The generals repeatedly stressed at a news conference that the drills were not intended to be a show of intimidation.

The exercises "are being run under the goals and principles of the UN, and are not directed against a third country and don't concern the interests of other countries," Chinese General Liang Guanglie said.

"The goal is peaceful," said General Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the armed forces General Staff.

Liang denied that the moves to strengthen ties between Beijing and Moscow would lead to some kind of military union or to the two countries fighting together against any common foe.

Beijing's main military focus is believed to be on Taiwan, where it is unlikely that Moscow would intervene.

However, Liang said the exercises with some 10,000 troops -- mostly Chinese and about 1,800 Russians -- were also taking place in the context of the "fight against international terrorism, separatism and extremism."

Washington's new top commander in the Pacific said that U.S. forces would be paying close attention. "We're very interested in the exercise, we're interested in the types of things that they'll do," Admiral Gary Roughead said Wednesday in Hawaii.

Another aim of the drills is Russia's desire to feed the Chinese military's hunger for modernizing with new weapons. When asked Thursday about Moscow's hopes of sales to China, Baluyevsky praised Russian weapons as reliable and easy to repair.