China, Russia & Iran Will Hold Joint Naval Drills

BEIJING (AFP) — China, Russia and Iran will hold joint naval drills starting Friday in the Gulf of Oman, Beijing and Tehran said, at a time of heightened tensions when the United States has alienated many of its traditional Western allies.

Set to for Dec. 27 to 30, the military exercises will “deepen exchange and cooperation between the navies of the three countries,” Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Thursday.

Wu said the Chinese navy would deploy its Xining guided missile destroyer in the drills — nicknamed the “carrier killer” for its array of anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles.

He did not give details on how many personnel or ships would take part overall.

For Iran, the drill’s purpose is to bolster “international commerce security in the region” and “fighting terrorism and piracy,” said senior armed forces spokesman Brigadier Gen. Aboldazl Shekarchi.

The exercise will “stabilize security” in the region and benefit the world, state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying on Wednesday.

The United States reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran in May last year after withdrawing from the international deal aimed at tackling the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, prompting Tehran to hit back with countermeasures.

Remaining parties to the badly weakened 2015 deal include China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

China’s foreign minister said the exercises were part of “normal military cooperation” between the three countries. But it presents a major challenge to the United States as Russian and China, longtime regional rivals, appear to move closer as President Donald Trump repeatedly expresses doubts about and criticizes the West’s NATO alliance.

© Agence France-Presse

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