BEIJING – China’s military has dispatched a pair of navy ships to take part in joint drills with Singapore’s navy and join in a regional maritime security exhibition.
The exercises starting Friday in the Southeast Asian city state come amid China’s growing presence in the South China Sea, which it claims sovereignty over virtually in its entirety.
Concerns are especially pronounced in the U.S., which on Wednesday joined with forces from the Philippines in major exercises in Philippine waters facing the South China Sea that are likely to anger China. Beijing's more assertive stance comes as its relations with the U.S. and its allies have hit historic lows.
State television’s military channel identified the ships being sent as the guided missile frigate Yulin and the minesweeper hunter Chibi. They will also be present for the May 3-5 IMDEX Asia National Defense and Maritime Security Show, which will feature 25 warships and attendees from 62 countries.
Amid China's efforts to make inroads with countries that have traditionally leaned toward the U.S., Singapore has sought a balance between rivals Washington and Beijing, but remains officially unallied amid a struggle for military and economic influence.
China also formally eschews military alliances, but has held an increasing number of drills with Russia, its chief partner in challenging Western dominance of international affairs.
In February, the navies from China, Russia and South Africa came together for drills on the southern tip of the African continent.
While those exercises were underway, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted China’s most senior foreign policy official at the Kremlin, underscoring Russia’s strengthening relationship with China and raising concerns in the West that Beijing might be ready to offer Moscow stronger support for its war in Ukraine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited Putin in Moscow last month, but China's Foreign Minister said this month that China would not sell weapons to either side in the Ukraine war.