China’s defense chief calls his Moscow trip a signal to US

Newly-appointed defense minister Lt. Gen. Wei Fenghe takes the oath of office during a plenary session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, March 19, 2018. China on Monday appointed a former missile force commander as its new defense minister amid lingering concerns over the goals of its rapid military modernization. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

MOSCOW — China’s new defense minister says his visit to Russia is a signal to the United States about the increasingly close military ties between Moscow and Beijing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and President of China Xi Jinping attend the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, May 9, 2015 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Host photo agency / RIA Novosti via Getty Images)

The unusually bold statement Tuesday by Gen. Wei Fenghe reflected the growing military cooperation between the two former Communist rivals.

Speaking in Moscow at the start of his talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Wei emphasized that he chose Russia for his first trip abroad since becoming the international face of China’s military last month to “show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation.”

Wei added he would attend Wednesday’s security conference hosted by the Russian Defense Ministry to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”

Shoigu said Wei’s visit “underlines a special character of relations between Russia and China,” adding that it will help further deepen ties between the two militaries.

Moscow and Beijing have forged what they described as a “strategic partnership,” expressing their shared opposition to the “unipolar” world — the term they use to describe perceived U.S. global domination.

As part of their burgeoning military cooperation, Moscow and Beijing have conducted joint military maneuvers, including exercises in the South China Sea and last summer’s joint navy drills in the Baltics.

The Baltic exercise marked the first time that China had flexed its military muscle in a region where tensions between Russia and NATO have escalated following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

In December, the Russian and Chinese militaries held missile defense drills intended to practice a joint response to missile threats from other countries.