, MOSCOW, July 22 – Russia and China on Wednesday launched massive joint military drills aimed at fighting terrorism and ethnic separatism, Russian news agencies reported.
The five-day exercises near the two nations’ common border "must show the international community that Russia and China have the necessary resources to ensure stability and security in the region," Ria Novosti quoted the chief of Russia’s general staff, General Nikolai Makarov, as saying.
"This is not a tribute to a fashionable trend, but a concrete contribution to preparing our armies to jointly counter security threats existing in our region," Makarov said, calling China "a reliable strategic partner."
The military drills come on the heels of deadly unrest that began on July 5 and which left at least 197 people dead in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, a vast desert region bordering several central Asian countries.
Up to 1,300 troops from each side will participate in the exercises dubbed Peace Mission 2009, which will be headquartered in China’s northeastern province of Jilin, near the two nations’ common border, Chinese media reported earlier.
Up to 22 Russian planes and 40 Chinese military aircraft, including fighter-bombers, armed helicopters, and transport planes, will participate.
The two nations held joint exercises in 2005 and 2007 under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security group consisting of China, Russia and four Central Asian states.