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'Growing China-Russia military ties concerning'

TOKYO, December 23 ------ The head of the United States Indo-Pacific Command said he was "very concerned" about increased joint military actions by China and Russia in the region. 


Adm. John C. Aquilino spoke in Tokyo as another regional concern, North Korea, conducted its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test, underscoring the advancement of its capabilities. Aquilino is meeting with Japanese defense officials ahead of the Keen Edge 24 joint exercise early next year. He urged China to stop escalating maritime confrontations with its neighbors, and said its increasing military activity with Russia was a serious concern during Moscow's war on Ukraine. "I view it as far beyond the marriage of convenience at this point in time," Aquilino said. "If you tied DPRK into that, the Russia-DPRK cooperation, and the fact that the only partner of the DPRK prior to that was (China), that's just a bad neighborhood and bad group to be in," he added, using the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 


The North has been pushing to expand cooperation with Russia and China. There have been concerns that Pyongyang has supplied missiles and other ammunition to Moscow to support its war in Ukraine, in exchange for obtaining Russian missile technology. Chinese and Russian bombers had a joint flight last week over the East China Sea to the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, causing Japanese fighter jets to scramble against them, Tokyo's Defense Ministry said. 


Japan has territorial disputes with China over the Tokyo-controlled East China Sea islands that Beijing also claims. It considers China a threat to national security and is in the process of a rapid military buildup. Japan is particularly concerned about China's increased joint activity with Russia's military around the Japanese coast. 


China has growing tensions with other neighbors. Standoffs between China and the Philippines over a number of disputed offshore areas in the South China Sea have escalated this year. The United States has warned China that it is obligated to defend the Philippines, its treaty ally, if Filipino forces come under attack. China has warned the US to stay away from what it calls a purely Asian dispute. China also activated sonar in waters where an Australian ship had divers working. But China's flight and maritime close encounters with US warplanes and ships have stopped since US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed in November to stabilize their relationship and reestablish military communication. But Aquilino's requested talks with his Chinese counterpart have been pending for three years, and he is waiting for China to respond to his renewed request. "No reply yet," he said, other than the Chinese embassy saying it has to work out the technology to set up the call.   




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