China is sending four ships — a destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship and submarine rescue ship — to participate in a joint naval drill with Russian warships in waters near the Korean peninsula, the latest sign of increasing cooperation between Moscow and Beijing that is likely intended to challenge U.S. dominance in the region.

The ships left the port of Qingdao, home to China’s north sea fleet, on Wednesday.

China’s Xinhua News Agency reported that the naval drills will be staged in the Sea of Japan near the Korean Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Russia and China are closely aligned on many diplomatic and security issues, with both countries calling for a negotiated settlement of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, preceded by North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile activities in return for the U.S. and South Korea halting their regular large-scale wargames.

July’s joint drills in the Baltic stirred concern among countries in the region, where tensions are already high over increased displays of military force by both Moscow and NATO.

In addition, The Associated Press noted China’s widening ship gap with the United States. Currently, the U.S. Navy has a fleet of 277 warships; China has more than 300, making it the largest navy on earth. And more are planned: The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence forecasts that the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) fleet will grow to between 313-342 warships by 2020.  [source]

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