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China and Iran held a joint naval exercise near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf amid rising tension in the region.
The official IRNA news agency said the drill on Sunday included an Iranian warship and two Chinese destroyers, a logistics ship and one helicopter.
The Chinese flotilla went to Oman after the naval exercise, state-run Xinhua reported.
The Iranian Navy assigned its Alborz destroyer, a helicopter, and 700 personnel members to the exercise.
The Chinese flotilla berthed at Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on Thursday after travelling there from the Pakistani port of Karachi, where it had docked on a training mission.
Iranian Rear Admiral Hossein Azad said the two navies had collaborated and exchanged information on combating piracy, defending trade fleets and rescue operations.
A significant amount of China’s oil imports from the Middle East passes through strait.
The drill came amid heightened tension between Iranian and US warships in the Gulf. Washington has accused Iran of sending fast-attack boats to harass US warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The US Navy also held a drill with Qatar on Saturday.
US Naval Institute
Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia have cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting “Iranian-backed terrorist groups”. The move is seen as an attempt to isolate Iran, which has a bitter relationship with Saudi Arabia.
China is expanding its relations with the Middle East, and threading a balance between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Beijing has signed lucrative trade deals with Riyadh. For Iran, it said it would support Tehran’s bid to enter the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — a security bloc consisting of China, Pakistan, India and Central Asian nations — seen as a counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Xu Guangyu, a former Chinese general, said the latest drill was a sign of common and friendly exchanges between Beijing and Tehran.
“Instead of taking sides over the controversy between Qatar and its neighbouring countries in the Middle East recently, China’s standpoint has always been neutral and conciliatory on the issue,” he said.
Xiao Xian, an international relations expert at Yunnan University, said China and Iran had kept up military exchanges and drills in recent years, and the recent naval exercise was not targeting any country.
Chinese Rear Admiral Shen Hao was quoted by IRNA as saying the drill would help develop the friendship between the two navies and strengthen confidence.
Additional reporting by Zhuang Pinghui and Choi Chi-yuk