Iran and China have announced that they will be conducting four days of joint naval exercises in the Persian Gulf. The naval exercises will reportedly focus on rescue missions as well as fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Both countries say that it is important for each to know the others’ naval relief and rescue operations and drills since both will be operating in the Persian Gulf. The 650 sailors on the Chinese ships will also be competing in sporting events with soldiers from Iran.
Two Chinese Navy warships have docked in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for a “friendly visit,” according to Iranian admirals and Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. When the ships arrived, they were given a military welcome by the Iranians. This is the first time that Chinese warships have docked at Iran’s principal naval port. The ships are typically dispatched to protect shipping vessels in the Gulf of Aden.
China and Iran already have a cozy relationship. China is the principal buyer of Iranian oil and Iran uses that money to buy Chinese products. Some speculate that the Chinese authorities are fearful that a deal over Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the West could jeopardize their lucrative business relations with Iran. Others think that China is merely extending its influence over a critical shipping corridor that it needs to move its products around the world.
China has been expanding the areas where its navy operates to protect its interests abroad. The Persian Gulf has become increasingly important in recent years. Iran has repeatedly threatened to seal off the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, to restrict shipments of oil and gas to the rest of the world. The United States Navy has a base in Bahrain and at least one aircraft carrier in the region.