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Tuesday, October 28, 2014
CHINA & IRAN STRENGTHEN MILITARY TIES: NAVAL EXERCISES TO POSSIBLY START
China and Iran Deepening Naval Ties, Iran Calls for Bilateral Blue Water Exercise
Gen. Chang Wanquan (R), state councilor and Chinese defense minister, meets with Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari (L) in Beijing on the morning of October 23, 2014. Chinese Ministry of National Defense Photo
Last week’s meeting between the heads of the Iranian Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in Beijing are the latest in a bilateral campaign to increase military to military cooperation and a recognition of growing Chinese interests in the Middle East.
Press reports from China and Iran spoke of increased technological cooperation between the two countries but did not go into specifics.
Following the meeting both navies expressed interest in conducting a first-ever bilateral blue water naval exercise, building on a PLAN visit to Iran last month.
In late September two Chinese warships — Type 052C Luyang II destroyer Changchun and the Type 054A Jiangkai II frigate Changzhou — made a port call at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and conducted limited search and rescue (SAR) operations with the Iranian Navy.
Chinese ship arrives in Bandar Abbas, Iran in September. Xinhua Photo
“This unprecedented visit and the participation of Chinese warships in naval SAR exercises with the [Iranian Navy] in the Persian Gulf could be an effort to further improve interoperability between the two navies,” according to a September analysis from Jane’s Defence Weekly.
The call for expanding the naval relationship between the two countries runs counter to China’s previous relationship with the Iran under arguably politically polarizing former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The election of the more moderate Hassan Rouhani in 2013 and the rise of the terror army of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) may have caused the Chinese to seek better military ties with Iran to better secure their increasing economic interest in the Middle East.
“Recent advances made by Islamic State militants and affiliated groups might have caused China to rethink its strategy and look for a more suitable focus for investments and energy resources,” according to a Monday analysis from Jane’s.
Compared to the PLAN, Iran is easily the junior partner in a bilateral naval relationship.
China is currently in a naval expansion and building relatively sophisticated surface ships heavily influenced by Western guided missile cruisers and destroyers and domestic submarines based on Russian designs — not to mention starting work on a domestic aircraft carrier.
Iran has a limited surface and submarine fleet and a low degree of technological sophistication in its shipbuilding industrial base. It fields three older Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and a handful of frigate-sized surface ships displacing about half the tonnage of a U.S. Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate (FFG), according to U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World.