Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has said Sweden will confront China on its decision to send a fleet of warships to the Baltic Sea to take part in a joint military exercise with Russia.
“We don’t know what it means, but this is a matter we should take up and question,” Löfven told Aftonbladet on Monday. “Whether this has any significance and whether this is a new interest, is something we don’t yet know.”
A fleet of Chinese warships last week met their Russian counterparts in the waters off St Petersburg to begin the Joint Sea 2017 exercise.
The Chinese fleet includes an advanced 052 Destroyers, a frigate, a support vessel, a helicopter and Chinese marines. It is the first time the Chinese navy has taken part in an exercise in the Baltic Sea.
A threat to regional stability?
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius has criticised the move as “not setting an example in the field in real life and by way of actions,” arguing it could threaten regional stability.
But Russia’s Ambassador to China, Andrei Denisov, said that although the exercise was a new development, it was intended to bolster military cooperation between the two countries rather than to threaten other countries with Baltic coasts.
“There is a point of novelty, but I haven’t heard anyone expressing much concern over this so-called ‘threat.’,” he said according to the Russian State news agency Tass. “China is interested in ocean navigation, it is kind of a long-distance cruise for them.”
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Do Russian bomber patrols in the Arctic threaten Canada’s security and sovereignty?, Radio Canada International
China: China’s Belt and Road initiative moves into Arctic, blog by Mia Bennett
Denmark/Greenland: Discussions underway on who can claim Arctic seabed, Radio Canada International
Finland: UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force will have ramifications for Arctic security: experts, Radio Canada International
Iceland: Iceland won’t back down on sanctions against Russia, The Independent Barents Observer
Norway: Military exercise Arctic Challenge 2017 set for take off, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Russian military aircraft spotted outside Norway during Arctic Challenge break, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Sweden’s Prime Minister reaffirms commitment to country’s defense, Radio Sweden
United States: Fifth Russian aircraft interception off Alaska’s coast in a month, but experts not alarmed, Alaska Public Media