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S. African navy conducts exercise with Chinese and Russian counterparts

By Ndumiso Mlilo in Johannesburg, South Africa | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-03-01 21:08

The joint maritime military exercise between South Africa, Russia and China has improved military cooperation between the three countries and consolidated relations between them, South Africa's defense force said.

The exercise, held in Durban and Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, concluded on Monday. It was the first joint military exercise between the three naval forces since November 2019. This year's military exercise, known as Exercise Mosi II, saw a total of 350 South African National Defence Force personnel from various arms of service taking part in the training with their Russian and Chinese counterparts.

South Africa's Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, said the exercise serves as a platform for the three nations to share operational skills, expertise and experience.

"The exercise benefits all countries involved through interoperability of the naval systems, joint disaster systems management enhancement, maritime cooperation and anti-piracy exercises," Modise said.

The South African National Defence Force said Exercise MOSI II strengthened the existing bonds that exist between South Africa, Russia and China. The South African National Defence Force spokesperson, Brigadier General Andries  Mokoena  Mahapa, said the three countries shared knowledge and best practices during the exercise.

"The soldiers were trained on interoperability, execution of joined doctrine and command and control," he said. "This helps to build military cooperation and address common challenges in relation to operations. The relationship between the militaries of the three countries is good and professional, and our areas of cooperation are in training, capacity-building and seamless interoperability."

Responding to critics who questioned why South Africa conducted a military exercise with Russia, a country currently at war with Ukraine, the SANDF said they recently conducted training with the United Kingdom, China, France, United States, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, and many other countries. The military issued a statement saying South Africa is a sovereign country and has a right to choose who they want to be friends and conduct training with.

William Mpofu, researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand's center for diversity studies, said the training, besides sharing best practices and knowledge, cemented existing relations between the three BRICS countries: "This training is significant in the geopolitical sense, political and historical. These countries have historically shown cooperation and solidarity towards each other. This training comes after they had interstate relations, be it in the political and economic sphere and now transcending to the military."

Mpofu said South Africa and China have not "frozen relations" with Russia like the West after war broke out with Ukraine. He said South Africa took a "principled stand" of calling for Russia and Ukraine to negotiate to find a peaceful solution.

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