Chinese naval vessels were greeted by NATO's flagship in the North Sea as the Chinese fleet headed for the Baltic region for the first time to carry out joint maritime exercises with Russia.
According to the official Twitter account for NATO Maritime Command, Standing NATO Maritime Group One flagship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup greeted the Chinese Navy task group in the North Sea while the SNMG1 flagship was conducting a Maritime Situational Awareness patrol in the North and Baltic seas.
It added that NATO ships have previously worked with Chinese task groups in the Gulf of Aden while conducting counter-piracy patrols. The last time Chinese ships paid a visit to the North Sea and Baltic region was in October 2015.
China and Russia have held joint drills every year since 2012. The Chinese Ministry of National Defense said that this year's exercises will focus on joint rescue efforts and protecting cargo vessels, Global Times reported.
The Chinese fleet is expected to reach the Baltic region on July 21 and the joint exercises will last till July 28.
Nearly 10 ships and over 10 aircraft and helicopters from the Russian and Chinese navies will join the first-phase exercises, Russian news agency Sputnik reported.
China's most advanced guided-missile destroyer the 052D, which is equipped with phased array radar and a vertical launching system, will also participate in the drills, according to Global Times.