Russia's defense minister on Friday defended his country's military contacts with China, insisting that the cooperation would not upset the security balance in the Far East despite Japanese concerns about Beijing's moves to boost its defense capability. Defense contacts between China and Russia "have developed, are developing and will develop, I can assure you of that," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart.
Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership, pledging commitment to a "multipolar world", a term that highlights their opposition to U.S. domination in global affairs. Moscow has sold China billions of dollars worth of defense equipment, and the two countries participated in an unprecedented joint military exercise in August, using long-range bombers and submarines to settle an imaginary conflict in a foreign land.
Japanese Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga expressed concern that China is not being fully transparent as it moves to increase its defense capabilities and modernize its military on the back of skyrocketing economic growth. "That is why it calls forth some suspicion," Nukaga said. He expressed hope that Russian defense contracts with China would take into account the delicate security balance in the East.
Ivanov said he had gotten the message that Japan "is very much interested in Russian relations with China." But he stressed that Russia would operate based on its own national interests and in correspondence with all of its international obligations. Ivanov added, however, that the defense contracts that Russia has with China are minuscule compared to China's ability to pump money into its own production of weapons.
The Russian and Japanese defense ministers also signed a memorandum on cooperation that both said signified the improved relations between their countries, which have yet to conclude a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities.
Nukaga called the agreement an example of the "new, higher and qualitatively improved relations" between the two nations. As part of the agreement, the two countries pledged a regular exchange of military students and teachers. Japan also proposed cooperating in the use of military transport aviation to help fight natural disasters, reports the AP. N.U.