China-Iran-Russia joint drills not a threat, but a security belt: Global Times editorial
Published: Mar 13, 2024 12:26 AM
China-Iran-Russia joint drills

China-Iran-Russia joint drills "Maritime Security Belt - 2024" starts on March 11, 2024. Photo: VCG

The navies of China, Iran, and Russia are conducting joint drills called "Maritime Security Belt - 2024" near the Gulf of Oman. The exercise will last from March 11 to 15. In addition to the three countries, naval representatives from Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Oman, India, and South Africa will also observe the exercise. Since 2019, this joint exercise had been successfully held three times, forming a normalized mechanism between the three countries. Like in previous years, this year's exercise aims to jointly maintain regional maritime security. The exercise is not targeted at any country and is not related to the geopolitical situation. In other words, any interpretation trying to associate the "Security Belt" with specific countries is inaccurate.

In the past, the topics of the China-Iran-Russia joint naval exercises have focused on the joint protection of shipping and maritime economic activities by fleet formations, mainly practicing fleet movements, naval gunnery, communication exercises and counter-piracy operations, which are in line with the participation of the three countries' navies in the escort operations in the Gulf of Aden. This year is no exception. Counter-piracy, search and rescue are the main contents of the joint exercise.

The Gulf of Oman is located at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, and about one-fifth of the world's oil is transported through here. The common goal of the three parties is to jointly maintain the security of this passage, ensuring regional maritime peace and stability, which is not only the consensus of the three parties but also the common interest of the global community. From the first cooperation to the present, the joint exercises have become institutionalized and routine. It demonstrates that the exercise has been satisfactory for all parties involved, showcasing the willingness and capability of the three parties to cooperate, which is also in line with the needs of the region.

Countering piracy, search and rescue, and other capabilities are essential for modern navies to carry out escort missions and ensure the security of waterways. Practicing these capabilities is a suitable arrangement in response to the security situation in the region, and it is completely different from exercises conducted by some countries for military confrontation. If some countries are concerned about "Maritime Security Belt," such concerns are unnecessary. Even without comparing exercise subjects, just looking at the code names of joint exercises by some countries, it's either a "Keen Edge" or an "Iron Fist," or even "Yudh Abhyas," which means "training for war" in Hindi. These code names are intimidatingly aggressive, displaying a strong deterrent meaning. Isn't it obvious who should be the cause for concern?

The current situation in the Middle East is turbulent and unsettled. Some Western public opinions believe that the trilateral military exercises are intended to demonstrate the support of China and Russia for Iran. The issue is that the "Maritime Security Belt" is being held for the fourth time. Previously, Western media claimed that the it was a means for China and Russia to sell weapons to Iran. Last year, they claimed that it was countermeasure actions targeted at "AUKUS." Relevant claims are updated every year. Even if the Western media themselves are not confused, the outside world will be bewildered.

The "Maritime Security Belt" focuses on non-traditional security areas to address common threats in the international community, bringing positive impacts to the smooth flow of international trade. The three parties are not likely to form an alliance based on it, nor will they develop a military alliance. Statements that forcefully associate the three countries as a so-called "alliance" or "axis" are underestimating the views of the three countries, and are still stuck in the inertia of Western "camp confrontation" thinking. The cooperation among the three parties will not be disturbed by such assertions, and will not be restrained because of displeasure from the West.

The latest "2024 Annual Threat Assessment Report" released by US' Office of the Director of National Intelligence believes that the US faces an increasingly fragile global order during the next year, mentioning China, Iran, and Russia. It should be noted that the real vulnerability of the current global order lies in the fact that the US has taken too many actions to incite camp confrontations under the guise of the so-called "axis" narrative and has too little rational understanding of global changes.

The security of the waters in the Gulf of Oman is crucial to the interests of all countries and requires collective efforts to maintain. The Chinese force participating in this exercise is from the PLA's 45th escort task force in the Gulf of Aden. China actively engages in international security cooperation and makes contributions, which demonstrates our responsible image as a major nation. Regarding the "Maritime Security Belt," Washington said last year that it would "closely watch it." The US often urges China to "assume regional responsibilities," and this time the international community will also closely observe the US to see whether it really means what it said.