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Russian ships arriving in China for naval war game

Russian missile cruiser Varyag is shown in this 2009 photo docked at Qingdao port, China's Shandong Province.
Russian missile cruiser Varyag is shown in this 2009 photo docked at Qingdao port, China's Shandong Province.Guang Niu / AP file

The Russian guided-missile cruiser Varyag arrived at an east Chinese naval base Saturday ahead of a planned joint exercise with the Chinese navy, news agency Xinhua reported.

The large-scale war game, the navies’ first bilateral drill, is scheduled Sunday through Friday off the resort city of Qingdao in the Yellow Sea, Xinhua said.

Russia also sent from Vladivostok three Udaloy class destroyers and three support ships, said Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

China will use 16 ships, including destroyers, frigates and two submarines, in the drill called Maritime Cooperation-2012, Ria Novosti said.

A Chinese aircraft carrier may also participate, the International Business Times said.

“The exercises will involve several simulated missions, including the rescue of a hijacked ship, the escort of a commercial vessel, and the defense a convoy from air and sea attacks,” a Russian military spokesman told the news agency.

The exercise will promote strategic coordination and mutual trust between the two militaries, said Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Chen also said the drill would strengthen the naval forces' ability to jointly confront new regional threats and maintain peace and stability in the region and world.

Since 2005, China and Russia have conducted several joint military exercises within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Filipino protesters demanding that China pull out of the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea demonstrate Friday outside the Chinese Embassy in Makati City in Manila, Philippines.Dondi Tawatao / Getty Images Contributor

The new drill comes after President Barack Obama last November signaled a "return to Asia" following a decade of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On Monday, the U.S. and Philippine military launched joint exercises involving in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China. The exercise includes 4,500 U.S. troops and 2,300 Filipino troops in a two-week event called "balikatan," or shoulder-to-shoulder, the Voice of America reported.

The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims in the South China Sea, Voice of America said.

China and the Philippines are in a standoff over fishing rights in the area. China's most advanced fishing patrol vessel, the Yuzheng 310, arrived Friday in waters off the coast of Scarborough Shoal, China and VOA said.

Xinhua reported the vessel will conduct routine patrols in the area to “protect China's sea rights and ensure the safety of Chinese fishermen.” The Philippines tried to arrest Chinese fisherman in the shoal, but Chinese surveillance ships intervened.

Late Friday, China said authorities released 21 Vietnamese fishermen whom they had detained for more than a month on a disputed island in the South China Sea.

Chinese security forces intercepted the fishermen’s two boats in early March near the Paracel islands, known in China as the Xisha Islands.

The Paracels are occupied by China but also claimed by Vietnam.

This article includes reporting by The Associated Press.

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