Russian and US Ships Conduct Exercises in the South China Sea, Approaching Indonesia? -

Russian and US Ships Conduct Exercises in the South China Sea, Approaching Indonesia?, NEWS - A Russian Pacific Fleet warship has conducted an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the South China Sea as part of its fleet training program, the Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed in a news release. 

The Marshal Shaposhnikov, assisted by a Ka-27 helicopter, was searching for "enemy" submarines in a classified location in the South China Sea before firing torpedoes and anti-submarine bombs at the vessel, according to the ministry. 

The firing was carried out solely in a "training manner" and did not involve real weapons from the frigate, the ministry said.

The Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate, along with the flagship missile cruiser of the Pacific Fleet, the Varyag, is currently on a long-distance training mission to the Asia-Pacific region. 

The ships departed from their fleet base in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East on January 22nd and, aside from the exercises, plan to make several port visits. The news release did not disclose the duration of the mission or which countries the ship detachment will visit.

Before entering the South China Sea, the ships underwent several exercises against both maritime and air targets in the East China Sea and Sea of Japan.

The presence of the Pacific Fleet in the South China Sea is part of the Eastern Military District's operations in the Pacific Ocean. Such exercises have become routine as the Russian Navy asserts its presence in the region. On a broader scale, Russia is seeking to enhance its relations with East and Southeast Asia amid increasing isolation following the invasion of Ukraine.

Similar anti-submarine exercises were conducted by another detachment from the Pacific Fleet in October 2023, when the destroyers Admiral Tributs and Admiral Panteleev undertook a long-distance sea voyage to the Pacific. 

Coastal countries in the South China Sea have not commented on Russia's exercises, as the exercises are likely seen as "exercising a state's rights at sea and do not require any permission," according to Collin Koh, a regional military expert based in Singapore. Other naval forces, including the US, have also conducted exercises and freedom of navigation operations in the area.

Russia has recently made efforts to enhance its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and forge closer ties with China. 

The two countries have conducted joint exercises in the East China Sea and South China Sea. However, according to Koh, the Kremlin will be careful not to openly declare support for Beijing in the disputed South China Sea. 

"While I understand that bilateral relations have grown closer since the war in Ukraine, I don't understand why Russia doesn't want to be seen as a power pursuing its own interests," he said. "Vietnam remains Russia's key partner in Southeast Asia, so I suspect Moscow is trying to alienate Hanoi by showing support to Beijing in the South China Sea."

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