Chinese and Russian militaries conducted a joint air patrol on Tuesday over the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, and the Western Pacific as President Biden concluded his first visit to Asia as president.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the patrol lasted 13 hours and was conducted by Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and Chinese Xian H-6 bombers. Japanese and South Korean warplanes shadowed the Russian and Chinese aircraft.
It’s not clear if the patrol was planned to coincide with President Biden’s trip to Asia. According to the Chinese Defense Ministry, the patrol was part of an annual military exercise. Russia and China have made similar flights in 2019, 2020, and 2021, although they were conducted in the latter half of the year.
The patrol marked the first joint military exercise between Beijing and Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The two powers have increased cooperation both militarily and economically in recent years as they are facing similar pressure from the US and its allies.
The patrol came as Biden was attending a Quad summit in Tokyo. The Quad is an informal alliance made up of the US, Japan, India, and Australia and is viewed by hawks in Washington as a potential foundation for a NATO-style anti-China coalition in Asia.
Strengthening the Quad and other partnerships in the region is a major aspect of the Biden administration’s strategy to counter China in the region, as outlined by the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. Beijing has cautioned the US against implementing the strategy, warning it could lead to a Ukraine-style “tragedy” in the region.
Biden angered Beijing on Monday when he said the US would intervene militarily if China invaded Taiwan, which was quickly walked back by the White House. His comments initially appeared to be a break from the US policy of strategic ambiguity, but Biden insisted the next day that Washington’s Taiwan policy hadn’t changed.