Leaders of China, Russia, Central Asian states to observe war games

International Herald Tribune

Leaders of China, Russia, Central Asian states to observe war games

Thursday, August 9, 2007

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BEIJING: The leaders of China, Russia, and four Central Asian states will observe joint war games being held this month by their countries’ armed forces, China’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

The Aug. 9-17 drill, called “Peace Mission 2007,” in eastern Russia will coincide with an annual summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui told reporters at a briefing.

“This is the first time that all the leaders of SCO nations will attend the war games,” Li said. “All the member countries put a high value on these drills.”

The exercises are aimed at countering terrorism, including a scenario in which militants occupy a town, requiring SCO forces to retake it by force — a scenario similar to threats faced by Russia in the Caucuses.

The China and Russia-dominated SCO had its origins in the late 1990s, but only took on a formal structure in 2001 to address regional threats and economic integration and counter U.S. influence in oil- and gas-rich Central Asia.

Other members are Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which is hosting the year’s summit in its capital, Bishkek.

China has sent a 1,600-member contingent, the biggest military unit to be sent such a long distance from China for military exercises. A total of 32 Mi-17 and Z-9 helicopters will also take part, along with six heavy transport aircraft, eight attack aircraft, and a company of airborne troops.

“The regional security situation is extremely complex and all members face threats,” Li said.

“The point of these exercises is to make a contribution to regional peace, security and stability,” he said, adding, “they are not targeted at any third parties.”

Representatives from the SCO’s four observer states, Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan, will attend the Aug. 16 summit but not the war games, Li said.

Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be attending his second SCO summit, is among those reportedly interested in joining the SCO as a full member.

Prior to the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao will make his first state visit to Kyrgyzstan, followed by a state visit to Russia on Aug. 17-18.

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