View Full Version : China, Russia, C.Asian nations plan joint exercises

26-04-06, 14:53
Apr 26, 2006 — BEIJING (Reuters) - China, Russia and four formerly Soviet-controlled Central Asian states will hold joint anti-terrorism exercises in Russia next year, China's official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

The six nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) announced the drills in a communique issued after a one-day meeting of their defense ministers in Beijing.

Xinhua gave no further details.

The SCO was founded in 2001 from a looser regional alliance set up in 1996. It groups Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with regional giants China and Russia. Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Iran are observer countries at SCO meetings.

For Beijing, the SCO has become a vehicle for bolstering its increasingly prominent security and economic interests in Central Asia while reassuring Moscow, the region's traditional patron.

The SCO member nations, except Uzbekistan, staged their first joint military drills in August 2003 in Kazakhstan and China's far northwestern Xinjiang region, which were also called "anti-terror" exercises at the time.

China and Russia held joint military exercises in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong in August 2005, the only time their two armies have cooperated on any significant scale since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Those maneuvers — officially aimed at quelling ethnic conflicts and resisting any interference by a "third force," an apparent reference to the United States — were seen as a sign that the SCO had begun to show some teeth after a low-key start.

The organization has a mandate to combat "terrorism" and Islamic radicalism throughout the region, including opposition groups that Central Asian countries treat as threats to their often harsh control.

China feels threatened by terrorism in Xinjiang, home to over 8 million Uighurs, a largely Islamic people who share linguistic and cultural bonds with neighboring Central Asia.

Many Augurs resent the growing Han Chinese presence in Xinjiang, as well as strict government controls on religious and cultural life. Some Uighur groups have staged small-scale attacks on Chinese officials, and a few were linked to the radical Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan.