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Global Times

China, Russia, Iran complete joint drill amid 'restrictions on sea routes from some major powers'

Global Times

By Leng Shumei Published: Jan 21, 2022 02:19 AM

China, Russia and Iran held a three-day maritime joint exercise in the Gulf of Oman, aiming to deepen pragmatic cooperation among the navies of the three countries, China's Ministry of National Defense announced on Thursday.

China sent the Type 052D guided missile destroyer Urumqi, the Type 903A replenishment ship Taihu, vessel-borne helicopters and 40 marines to attend the drill held between January 18 and 20, according to the ministry.

The exercise shows a goodwill gesture and exhibits the three countries' abilities to maintain maritime security and build a maritime community with a shared future, the ministry said.

These warships and personnel belong to the 39th fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy that is wrapping up an escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. Observers said that the PLA Navy began conducting escort missions in these waters in December 2008.

The Gulf of Oman links with the Strait of Hormuz, a passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea. It is a sensitive place and vital to global energy transport, and its situation could largely affect China's economy and security, analysts noted.

"The array is powerful enough for cooperation in non-traditional security, including combating terrorism and pirates, humanitarian rescue and safeguarding sea routines," Song Zhongping, a Chinese military commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Song noted that, the joint drill is mainly aimed at safeguarding regional peace and stability amid restrictions on major sea routes from some major powers, especially the US. He went further, questioning the US saying that if it "seizes Iran's oil tankers in open seas, isn't this the behavior of pirates?"

In May, 2021, the US sold about 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil after seizing an oil tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, which the US claimed was subject to forfeiture under American anti-terrorism statues, according to media reports.

This is the second time the trilateral drill is held after it started in 2019 and at a time when Iran is facing unprecedented sanctions from the US.

This year, Russia sent to the exercise its Pacific Fleet's naval group, made up of the missile cruiser Varyag, the large anti-submarine warfare ship Admiral Tributs, and the large sea tanker Boris Butoma. The navies from Iran's armed forces and Revolutionary Guards took part in the drills, according to media reports.

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