Chinese, Russian militaries hold drills in northwest China

Chinese and Russian military forces, involving ground troops and air forces, are engaged in joint exercises in northwestern China as ties grow between the two autocratic states amid uncertainty over instability in Afghanistan reported AP. The exercises are due to continue through Friday in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous region.

The region borders on Xinjiang, where China has detained more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities in what it calls a campaign against terrorism and extremism. Beijing is concerned about violence spilling over Afghan border with Xinjiang  and if the Taliban take control in the country following the pullout of U.S. troops. While not part of a formal alliance, Russia and China have aligned their military and foreign policies largely in opposition to those of the U.S. and its allies. Li Zuocheng, a member of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Military Commission presided the exercises which began on Monday. The exercise aims to “deepen the joint anti-terrorism operations between the Chinese and Russian militaries and demonstrate the firm determination and strength of the two countries to jointly safeguard international and regional security and stability,” Xinhua said, citing Chinese and Russian officials. Russia has backed China in its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, over which Beijing clashed with common rival the U.S. on Monday at a high-level U.N. Security Council meeting on maritime security.

China, Taiwan and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the disputed waters and have been locked in increasingly tense territorial standoffs for decades. China built seven disputed reefs into missile-protected island bases in recent years, ratcheting up tensions with rival claimants, along with the United States and its allies.