MOSCOW, July 5 (UPI) -- Russia and China Friday began their large-scale naval exercise in the Sea of Japan with the arrival of seven Chinese ships, military officials said.
The Chinese naval ships arrived in Russia's Far Eastern port of Vladivostok for the seven-day Naval Interaction 2013 exercise, RIA Novosti reported. A total of 20 Russian and Chinese warships and auxiliary vessels and about a dozen places are involved in the program.
Rear Adm. Leonid Sukhanov, deputy chief of the Russian Navy Main Staff who welcomed the Chinese vessels, said it is the biggest Chinese naval task force ever to arrive at the main base of Russia's Pacific Fleet.
"The Naval Interaction 2013 exercises are not directed against any third party and are not politically charged," he said, adding they should not be treated as a threat or warning to any country.
China's deputy commander in chief of the Navy, Vice Adm. Ding Yiping, said the exercises are aimed at improving the two states' anti-piracy cooperation.
Earlier, the two countries' military heads, Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and Russian Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, announced in Moscow the two sides will also hold another exercise from July 27 through Aug. 15. That one, code named Peace Mission 2013, would take place in Russia's Urals region.
China's official Xinhua News Agency had quoted General Fang that the drills are also meant to strengthen cooperation between the two armed forces in military training and enhance their capability in coordinating military operations for safeguarding regional security and stability.
Russia and China have held joint military exercises since 2005 under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The other members of the organization are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Moscow and Beijing have recently decided to strengthen military cooperation to ensure an adequate and prompt response to common threats, RIA Novosti has reported.