China, Russia to hold anti-missile drill amid opposition to US' missile shield
CHINA and Russia will hold their first joint computer-assisted, anti-missile drill in Moscow this month, as they appeal to the United States not to deploy the Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) anti-missile defence system in South Korea, Chinese and Russian media reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi stressed last week that installing the Thaad system on the Korean Peninsula would be viewed as a security threat to their countries, Russia's Tass news agency reported.
But there was no reference to Thaad in Moscow's announcement of the coming drill with China, codenamed Air and Space Security 2016. It would be conducted in Russia's Aerospace Defence Forces Research Institute.
The drill will explore using the air and missile defence forces of both countries to jointly protect their territories from ballistic or cruise missile attacks launched accidentally or provocatively, said the announcement.
Both countries maintain that the drill is not directed specifically against a third party.
Experts whom Russia's Regnum non-state news website spoke to said the drill would help both militaries familiarise themselves with the other's command structures and data transmission processes.
"Although both countries claim the drill to be of symbolic significance, it is undeniable that they are seeing a real threat from nuclear ballistic missiles, which are proliferating," an article in Chinese news website Tencent pointed out.
"The military cooperation and mutual trust entailed by the drill must be a milestone for both countries and will influence greatly the political and military situation of Eurasia," the article added.
Russia has developed a number of long-range anti-ballistic missiles in recent years for protecting its vast territory, and is upgrading the A135 system defending Moscow.
On the other hand, China is test-firing hit-to-kill missiles, the second country on the way to mastering the technology after the US, while sea-based missile defence could be its major strength, with its shipborne radar system being one of the world's most advanced.
"The two countries could complement each other with their different strengths," said the Tencent article.
Meanwhile, the US is still in talks with South Korea on Thaad and has said the truck-mounted system will not threaten other countries if installed.
Washington and Seoul started mulling over the deployment after North Korea claimed to have launched a satellite into orbit - a move that could be a cover for testing a ballistic missile system that could potentially carry nuclear warheads.
US and South Korean officials have expressed concern that the North could attempt a fifth nuclear test as it holds the ruling Workers' Party's first congressional meeting in decades this weekend.
North Korea's drive to develop nuclear weapon capability has also angered China.