China and Russia Hold Naval Drills Off N. Korea
Pyongyang fired a second ballistic missile over Japan last Friday, and the Korean Peninsula has been a busy area for military movements over the three days since. Russia and China are holding a naval exercise off North Korea's coast, and on Monday South Korean and American military aircraft – including two strategic bombers – staged a joint drill.
The Russian-Chinese exercise is the first of its kind this year in the Pacific, and it is taking place in and around Vladivostok. It begins with a series of coastal exercises for Chinese and Russian marines from September 18-21, and it will be capped off with a sea stage in waters near Vladivostok and in the Sea of Okhotsk from September 22-26. The Chinese destroyer Shijiazhuang leads the PLA's delegation at the exercise.
As with any drill, Russian military sources emphasized that the exercise was intended to “consolidate partnership and practical cooperation between the two militaries," not to threaten any other countries. It is the second Sino-Russian drill this year, following a series of exercises in the Baltic in July.
All sides condemn North Korean launch
North Korea has long relied on sponsorship from Russia and China to support its fragile economy, but after its latest missile test, even the Kremlin was willing to criticize its actions – if not necessarily willing to respond.
"Russia is deeply worried over more provocative launches, which lead to a further escalation of tensions on the peninsula," said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov. "We strongly criticize such provocative actions." He added, though, that this criticism was the extent of the response that "can be taken at the moment." Russia's foreign ministry added in a statement that it disapproved of the "aggressive rhetoric" coming from the United States.
China has also urged patience and engagement with the North, even if it has expressed dismay at Pyongyang's continued weapons testing. The U.S. has pressed Beijing to shut down trade links with North Korea, a key requirement for ratcheting up economic pressure on Kim Jong-un's regime; however, China maintains that it does not have the solution, and that the U.S. should negotiate directly with North Korea.