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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shanghai Group to Hold War Games

APSergei Ivanov walking past a picture of President Putin as he arrives for a news conference Wednesday in Beijing.
BEIJING -- Defense ministers from China, Russia and four Central Asian nations agreed to hold joint anti-terrorism drills next year as they gathered Wednesday to discuss regional security, including the threat from Islamic militancy.

Armed forces from the six nations will stage the military exercise in Russian territory, in the Volga-Urals Military District, which borders Kazakhstan, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters after the meeting. Air forces and precision-guided weapons would likely be featured he said.

The joint exercise would be the largest staged by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The group, which was formally established five years ago, was founded to build confidence among the member nations and grapple with militant Islamic groups. China and Russia, which dominate the grouping, have used it to further their economic and political priorities in Central Asia, especially in countering the presence of U.S. bases there.

Ivanov and the defense minister of Kyrgyzstan, in separate comments to reporters, said that the group's military cooperation was aimed at fighting terrorism and other emerging, non-traditional threats, not the United States.

"The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not a military alliance," Ivanov said. According to its charter, he said, the group "is entitled to use collective forces to deal with threats and challenges, especially the new threats and challenges posed by terrorist forces in large numbers and equipped with advanced weapons and new technology."

Military cooperation within the group escalated following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, with the launching of small-scale war games and the signing of an anti-terror convention among the members. The scale of such exercises has steadily grown. Last August, thousands of Chinese and Russian troops launched mock amphibious landings and aerial assaults in what was formally described as an anti-terrorism drill.

Ivanov and Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan were meeting with counterparts Bulat Darbekov of Kazakhstan, Ismail Isakov of Kyrgyzstan, Sherali Khayrulloyev of Tajikistan and Ruslan Mirzayev of Uzbekistan.

Ivanov was also scheduled to meet separately with Chinese military officials, Interfax reported. China is the biggest customer for Russian warships, submarines, jet fighters and other military hardware.

Beijing is also seeking the extradition of two members of the Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group who fled from China to Kazakhstan, Amnesty International said Wednesday. The men, Abdukadir Sidik and Yusuf Kadir Tohti, were detained by Kazakh authorities last month and are accused by China of seeking independence for China's restive northwestern territory of Xinjiang. Uighurs have historically been the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang and are culturally and linguistically distinct from China's Han majority.

 Igor Ivanov, who heads the Security Council, said Wednesday that the Iranian nuclear crisis threatened stability in Central Asia. "We share the opinion that the Iranian crisis must be solved politically," Ivanov said after talks in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, with his Central Asian counterparts.