Turkey-China military exercises, round 2
Remember how worked up everyone got when it emerged that Turkey and China had done joint air force exercises together? Well, now China's Ministry of National Defense is saying that the two countries are conducting ground force exercises. From Xinhua:
The Chinese People's Liberation Army and Turkey's armed forces kicked off a week-long joint military training in Turkey Monday, according to China's Ministry of National Defense.
The training, attended by ground forces from both countries, includes training of basic assault skills in hilly terrains and tactics, the ministry said in a statement.
The training is aimed at enhancing mutual understanding and trust, deepening communication and cooperation between the two armies, it reads.
That's the entire story, and thus far no one in Turkey seems to have reported it.
The South China Morning Post (subscription only) quotes a Chinese security expert suggesting that China's goal with the exercises is to practice against Uyghur terrorists, which probably won't go down well among the Turkish public, which is generally sympathetic to the Uyghur cause:
Mainland security experts said it was a counter-insurgency drill. Though the scale of the exercise is small, it will send a strong political message to Uygur separatists in the restive Xinjiang Autonomous Region . Beijing has accused some Uygur groups of conducting terrorist activities in Xinjiang.
"Both sides chose to hold the exercise in mountainous terrain. That is a strong indication, as it is where terrorists usually hide," Li Wei , an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said.
The NATO summit in Lisbon is coming up just after these exercises are supposed to end, I expect there will be some pointed questions for the Turks from their allies...
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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