Nearly 9,000 Russian and Chinese troops began a mock assault on the beaches of northern China Tuesday for the final stage of unprecedented joint war games between the two former Cold War rivals.
The live-fire exercise, dubbed "Peace Mission 2005," involves about 7,000 Chinese troops and 1,800 Russians, along with state-of-the-art warships, warplanes and amphibious tanks.
Operations began with a simulated naval blockade off the coast of the Shandong Peninsula in the Yellow Sea, southeast of Beijing, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The exercises were the top story on noon news broadcasts. Video showed ships and warplanes firing missiles and rockets while military music blared from shipboard speakers.
Chinese participants included three destroyers, three frigates and one submarine, along with naval aircraft, Xinhua said. They were joined by an anti-submarine vessel, missile destroyer, helicopters and a surveillance plane from the Russian navy, it said.
Top Chinese and Russian generals have sought to reassure the region that the exercises aren't directed against any third nation. Under the fictional scenario for the exercises, the forces have a U.N. mandate to stabilize a country plunged into violence by ethnic strife.
Yet Chinese media have also said the exercises are intended to advertise China's determination to deal with regional terrorist, extremist and separatist threats _ the last a likely reference to self-governing Taiwan, which China has vowed to reclaim by force if necessary.
The games "will frighten the three evil forces of 'ethnic separatism, religious extremism and international terrorism,"' Maj. Gen. Peng Guanglian, a frequent hardline critic of Taiwan and the United States, was quoted as saying in an interview with Shanghai newspaper the Oriental Morning Post published Tuesday.
The eight-day exercises were inaugurated last week in the Russian port of Vladivostok with a planning session and will end on Thursday. At the weekend, paratroopers from the two militaries landed in a joint deployment.
The war games reflect strengthening ties between Russia and China over shared concerns about U.S. dominance of world affairs. U.S. officials have said they are watching the exercises closely and hope they will help support regional stability.