‘As America pivots to Asia, Russia & China need to work closer together’

© Vitaliy Ankov
The South China Sea is increasingly a theater for international rivalry; a rivalry between the US, China and Russia, as well as various claims over islands, Andrew Leung, international and independent China Strategist based in Hong Kong, told RT.

China and Russia are planning to hold naval exercises in the South China Sea in September, according to China's Defense Ministry. The aim of the drills is to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

RT: How important is Russia-China's drills for balance of power in the region?

Andrew Leung: South China Sea is increasingly a theater for international rivalry; a rivalry between the US and China and between China and Japan. And of course, various claims over islands involve a number of nations, including Russia. So, as far as the theater is concerned, that’s important. But of course, China and Russia have many common grounds against the rivalry of the US. So, the exercise must be seen in that context.

RT: How could both nations benefit from these drills?

AL: I think that both Russia and China need to work closer together on a number of fronts. Because in the South China Sea there are so many issues which are becoming more and more pushed to the fore. And that would impinge upon the national interest of countries like China and Russia. So, I think both sides need to work together, not only militarily but also economically. For example, in Eastern Siberia, China is expanding its economic interaction with that part of Russia. And Russia needs China’s money to develop the infrastructure. I think that both sides are seeing common grounds on that front. But don’t forget China and Russia are not 100 percent on all fours because Russia, for example, fears that China’s influence in Eastern Siberia could unsettle the stability of that region. So, there are a number of issues which the both do not see eye to eye. But because of America’s pivot to Asia, Russia and China need to work closer together.

RT: Would it put more pressure on Russia's and China's relations with other nations that are militarily present there?

AL: I think that all countries see these exercises for what they are. Because this is not the first time Russia and China have common drills. There are military drills between the US and Japan, for example, and the US and Vietnam and the Philippines. I think that military drills are not new. I don’t think that this is going to unsettle a lot of other countries in the region.

RT: China has been airing the video which advocates South China Sea belonging to Beijing. What have they been trying to achieve with that?

AL: China has made these claims a long time ago. And now, after the verdict at The Hague, the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the case put forward by the Philippines and now the whole world has been made aware of this verdict… China has said from the start that the Court has no authority over territorial disputes

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.