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Russia, China conduct first-ever joint naval patrols in Pacific Ocean

Chinese and Russian warships transit simulated mined sea areas during joint naval exercises. (File photo)

Russian and Chinese warships have, for the first time, conducted joint patrols in the western part of the Pacific Ocean, the Russian defense ministry said.

The one-week patrol, which was concluded on Saturday, involved a total of 10 warships, five from each nation, in the Tsugaru strait that connects the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. 

“The group of ships passed through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time as part of the patrol," the ministry said in a statement.

The objective of the joint patrol, it stated, was to “demonstrate the state flags of Russia and China, maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and also protect facilities of both countries' maritime economic activity.”

The two navies also practiced joint tactical maneuvers and conducted a series of military drills, the statement added.  

Japan said Tuesday that ten vessels from China and Russia had sailed through the strait, which separates Japan's main island from its northern island of Hokkaido.

Russia and China have an ongoing military partnership and have conducted a series of joint military drills, the latest of which was carried out in the Sea of Japan earlier this month.

President Vladimir Putin said earlier this year that Moscow and Beijing were "united like a mountain" with an "unbreakable" friendship.

The two counties have cultivated closer military and diplomatic relations in recent years as their ties with the West have soured.

'NATO amassing forces near Russian borders'

In a separate statement, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said on Saturday that the US-led NATO alliance is gradually amassing forces near Russia's borders.

“NATO is gradually gathering forces near our borders amid calls for military deterrence of Russia,” the Interfax news agency quoted Shoygu as saying.

He made the remarks after defense ministers from the Western military alliance agreed on a new defensive strategy against Russia on multiple fronts.

Germany’s defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer described the new plan as “the way of deterrence.”

In an apparent reference to World War II, Shoygu warned that Germany “must know really well how a similar thing ended up for Germany and Europe.”

NATO’s new plan came days after Moscow shut its diplomatic mission to NATO and the alliance's mission in Moscow after the alliance expelled eight Russian diplomats over espionage allegations. Russia denied the spying allegations as groundless.

The Kremlin said that the new anti-Russia plan proved that Moscow had been right to cut ties with the Western alliance.

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