Naval forces from China, Iran and Russia — all countries at varying degrees of odds with the United States — are staging joint drills in the Gulf of Oman this week, China’s Defence Ministry has announced.
Other countries are also taking part in the “Security Bond-2023” exercises, the Ministry said on March 14 without giving details. Iran, Pakistan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates all have coastline along the waterbody lying at the mouth of the strategic Persian Gulf.
“This exercise will help deepen practical cooperation between the participating countries' navies ... and inject positive energy into regional peace and stability,” the Ministry statement said.
The exercises scheduled for Wednesday through Sunday come amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over a range of issues, including China's refusal to criticise Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine and continuing support for the Russian economy.
The U.S. and its allies have condemned the invasion, imposed punishing economic sanctions on Russia and supplied Ukraine with defensive arms. Iran and the U.S. have been adversaries since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979 and the taking of U.S. diplomats as hostages.
China has dispatched the guided missile destroyer Nanning to take part in the drills centred on search and rescue at sea and other non-combat missions. The three countries held similar drills last year and in 2019, underscoring China's growing military and political links with nations that have been largely shunned by the U.S. and its partners.
Last week, China hosted talks between Iran and chief Middle Eastern rival Saudi Arabia that resulted in an agreement between them Friday to restore full diplomatic relations after seven years of tensions.
While the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have long-standing military and political ties, relations have frayed over the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom’s leadership and cuts in production by the OPEC+ oil cartel that the administration said was helping Russia.