• The naval exercises are part of China's power projection in the South China Sea region.

The naval exercises are part of China's power projection in the South China Sea region. (Photo : www.wikimapia.org)

Chinese and Russian naval forces are set to conduct joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea in mid-May, which is expected to further enhance the military ties between the two countries, the Global Times reported.

The report said that the Mediterranean drill is seen by analysts as an indication of China's capability to safeguard its commercial interests in the face of escalating tensions with other countries in the region such as Syria and Libya.

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The exercise has attracted strong media interest since China's Defense Ministry made the announcement on April 30, considering the political and military implications of military exercise.

"It is the fourth time the two countries have conducted a joint naval drill. Both China and Russia have conducted naval activities in the region. The joint drill is their latest move in strengthening naval cooperation," Zhang Junshe, a research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said that the two countries will deploy a total of nine ships, including Chinese vessels that are presently on anti-piracy patrols off the Somalian waters.

Geng stressed, however, that the military drill was not aimed at any third party or with the regional situation, as it was aimed at deepening China's cooperation with Russia and increase their capabilities to confront maritime threats.

The report said that the upcoming May exercises will address concerns regarding navigation safety, rescue and escort missions, at-sea replenishment and live fire drills.

China and Russia conducted their first naval drill in 2012 off the Pacific waters.