Troops line up at the opening ceremony of the China-Saudi Arabia Blue Sword-2023 joint naval special operations exercise at a camp in Zhanjiang, South China's Guangdong Province, on October 9, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy of China's Ministry of National Defense)
China and Saudi Arabia on Monday kicked off a joint naval special operations exercise in South China, with experts saying on Tuesday that the two countries have made such joint drills routine in a move to boost military cooperation as well as safeguard peace and stability.
The Blue Sword-2023 exercise was launched with an opening ceremony at a camp in Zhanjiang, South China's Guangdong Province, on Monday, as hundreds of troops from both sides lined up and prepared for the joint drill, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy said in a press release on the day.
The goal of the exercise is to boost the mutual trust and friendly relations between the Chinese and the Saudi Arabian navies, enhance the participants' capabilities in naval combat and comprehensively improve the joint operational capabilities of overseas armed rescue units, according to the press release.
Set under a scenario in which a commercial ship is hijacked, the exercise will task a China-Saudi Arabia joint naval special operations unit to conduct maritime assault and rescue, the PLA Daily reported on Tuesday.
The three-week joint exercise will be split into a basic training phase, a professional training phase and a comprehensive drill phase that features more than 20 training subjects, including live-fire shooting, fast roping from helicopters, cabins searches, underwater reconnaissance, sniping-on-command, and underwater explosives disarming, according to the PLA Navy press release and the PLA Daily report.
This is the second edition of the Blue Sword series joint exercise and the first one held in China. The first edition, Blue Sword-2019, was held in 2019 in Saudi Arabia.
The holding of the second Blue Sword exercise indicates that China and Saudi Arabia have made this exercise routine, and through the drills, both countries' navies can learn from each other's strengths, analysts said, noting that Saudi Arabia follows a Western training doctrine, while China's unique training system also has its own advantages.
Both Chinese and Saudi Arabian navies hold escort and anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, and the joint naval special operations exercise can enhance the two navies' level of combat training and further deepen pragmatic, friendly cooperation, Zhang Junshe, a Chinese naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
As training for overseas counter-terrorism operations, the drill will boost the two countries' capabilities in safeguarding global maritime security and carrying out international obligations, which is conducive to peace and stability in the world, Zhang said.
"China has many overseas interests, including investments, cooperation projects and overseas nationals. Sea routes connecting the Middle East to China are also vital to China's trade and fuel imports," another Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.
China is making concrete efforts to cooperate with related countries to build a safe and peaceful region that benefits all relevant parties, the expert said.