While President Biden was in Tokyo on Tuesday, Russia and China flew strategic bombers over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, their first joint military exercise since the Ukraine invasion and a signal to the administration that it wants to strengthen the regional alliance. Growing strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing.
The White House immediately condemned the exercise. “This … shows that despite Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine, China is willing to align itself closely with Russia,” said a senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The two countries have conducted joint exercises before, but since Russia invaded Ukraine it has been “the most significant form of military cooperation.”
Biden stresses no change in Taiwan’s policy during quad meeting to deal with China
The exercise came as Biden ended his five-day visit to Seoul and Tokyo to deepen strategic ties in a series of meetings involving leaders from Australia and India. Japan, India, Australia And the United States formed the Quartet Security Group or Quartet. Although their partnership is considered informal, Beijing sees it as a strategic attempt to control China.
Economic and geopolitical concerns were high on Biden’s agenda, with meetings covering various issues, including support for Ukraine and the announcement of a new economic structure aimed at countering China’s efforts to increase its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Tokyo had expressed “deep concern” over the flight through Chinese and Russian diplomatic channels. During a news conference on Tuesday, he called the move “particularly provocative” and held a quad meeting at the same time. It is marked The This is the fourth time since November that Chinese and Russian military aircraft have operated such flights. Kishi said.
“The fact that China and Russia were willing to go through this exercise during the quad meeting in Japan and with the unveiling of the events in Ukraine shows the depth of their partnership and shows that we can only hope to deepen it in the months ahead.” Said the senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub.
Russia has demanded military assistance from China, US officials say.
The White House said in March that Russia wanted military equipment from China because of trade sanctions and other economic sanctions imposed by the United States and many other countries in response to the Ukraine attack. So far, senior administration officials have said there is no evidence that Beijing has provided such assistance
According to the Chinese and Russian defense ministries, the two countries conducted a 13-hour joint patrol under the annual military cooperation plan. It follows a joint statement in February in which Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that there was “no limit” to friendship between the two countries and “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”
A senior U.S. official called the statement “evidence” that, whether in Eastern Europe or the Western Pacific, “China and Russia will have their own spheres of influence where it would be normal and acceptable to use force against their neighbors.”
“They are working together to advance that vision,” the official said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the exercise was not aimed at third countries and that “foreign countries’ airspace was not violated” during the exercise, state-owned media outlet Tas reported on Tuesday.
In Seoul, senior military officials say they jolted fighter jets after at least four Chinese and Russian military planes flew over South Korea’s air defense zone. Although the area is not part of the country’s regional airspace, authorities call in foreign aircraft to enter the zone to identify themselves.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the air patrol consisted of a combination of Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers and Chinese H-6K strategic bombers. Such exercises took some time to prepare and were probably planned in advance, officials said.
“But they could have chosen not to do it,” said Shulman of the Atlantic Council. “They knew what message they were sending today by choosing it – just a week ago.”
Lee reports from Tokyo and Kim reports from Seoul.