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Iran Press TV

UK warship tails Chinese flotilla headed for Russia

Iran Press TV

Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:52PM

The UK has scrambled one of its warships to shadow a Chinese flotilla passing through the English Channel to join Russian naval forces for a joint military drill in the Baltic Sea.

The Royal Navy sent over the HMS Richmond frigate over the weekend to watch a trio of Chinese warships as they steamed through the Strait of Dover, the Telegraph reported Wednesday.

The Chinese vessels then sailed across the North Sea, where they were closely watched by Dutch vessels.

According to a report by the state-run Chinese daily Global Times, leading the flotilla was the 052D, China's "most advanced guided-missile destroyer," which was commissioned two years ago.

Accompanying it were the missile frigate Yuncheng and the Luoma Lake supply ship.

The Chinese warships were on their way to the naval base of Baltiysk in Russia's Kaliningrad region, where they would carry out their first ever maneuvers in the strategic waters off Russia's coast.

Codenamed Joint Sea 2017, the week-long war game will begin on Friday and feature ten warships and an equal number of fighter jets and aircraft.

The Chinese and Russian naval forces held similar drills in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad last month, continuing a trend that began in 2012.

This year's drills revolve around "joint rescue efforts and protecting cargo vessels," according to Chinese military officials.

Xinhua reported last month that the main objective was to advance the "Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination."

As close allies, the two veto-holding members of the UN Security Council have usually found themselves at the opposing sides of the argument with the United States and the West on a variety of global issues, including the Syria conflict.

Additionally, they both face territorial challenges from the US Navy in the Baltic Sea and the South China Sea. American warships have been regularly sailing close to Chinese and Russian waters to protect what Washington calls "freedom of navigation."

UK Navy's knack for flexing muscles

The UK Navy has taken every opportunity in the past to flex its muscles in the English Channel, often engaging Russian warships crossing the gateway into the Mediterranean Sea on their way to or back from Syria.

London pushed the envelope in January, when it risked serious tensions by sending a number warships and fighter jets to tail the Russian Northern Fleet carrier group led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier returning from a Syria mission.

Back then, UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon called the Kuznetsov a "ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people."

Russia didn't take the insult lightly, advising Fallon to focus on the British Navy's shortcomings instead.

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