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China, Russia, Iran Hold Joint Military Drills In Gulf of Oman

U.S. officials say they are not concerned over the military exercise, but they will 'monitor it'

China, Russia, and Iran are conducting joint military exercises in the Gulf of Oman from March 15 to March 19, according to a press release from China’s National Defense Ministry.

The drills, known as the Security Belt-2023 exercise, expand upon similar drills conducted in 2019 and 2022 China’s defense officials said. The Associated Press (AP) speculated that other countries that could take part in the drills include Pakistan, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, as those countries have coastline along the Gulf.

Chinese military officials have deployed a guided-missile destroyer called “Nanning” to participate in the exercises to aid in aerial search, maritime rescue, ship parade, and other drills.

“The Security Belt-2023 exercise will facilitate the deepening of the practical cooperation among the navies of the participating countries, further demonstrate their willingness and ability to jointly protect maritime security, actively build a maritime community with a shared future, and inject a positive momentum to the regional peace and stability,” Chinese officials said.

Though the military exercises are now a regular occurrence, this year’s drills come as concerns mount over China and Russia forging a closer relationship as the war in Ukraine drags on, and Russia has begun sending U.S. weapons confiscated in Ukraine to Iran for reverse engineering.

U.S. officials say they are not concerned over the joint training exercise, recognizing that the drills are not irregular.

“We’re going to watch it, we’ll monitor it, obviously, to make sure that there’s no threat resulting from this training exercise to our national security interests or those of our allies and partners in the region,” the AP quoted U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby saying. “But nations train. We do it all the time. We’ll watch it as best we can.”

The drills also come amid a recent invitation that was extended by China to Iran and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman — for a summit later this year.

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