July 19 (UPI) — A Chinese naval group is steaming to the Baltic Sea to engage in exercises with the Russian Navy as part of the “Joint Sea” series of maneuvers running from July 24 to 27.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy ships were shadowed by Great Britain’s Royal Navy as the vessels transited the English Channel. The task force was greeted in the North Sea by NATO warships, including the Norwegian Maritime Group One flagship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup.
The Chinese ship’s destination is the port of Baltiysk in the Russian Baltic Sea province of Kaliningrad. The task force includes the Type 052D guided-missile destroyer Changsha, a frigate and a replenishment ship.
The Chinese and Russia have held annual joint naval drills since 2012 to bolster military ties, including in contested settings like the South China Sea last year. “Joint Sea” will mark the first time Chinese ships have drilled in the Baltic.
Baltic states Estonia, Lithuania and Estonia have all expressed concerns over Russian ambitions and expansionism in the region since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and backing of separatists in Ukraine.
It marks another step in China’s ambitions to expand its “blue-water” navy’s ability to project its power worldwide and operate with partners like Russia.