China, Iran and Russia will hold joint naval exercises beginning Friday in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman, and these maneuvers come amid escalating tensions in the region between Tehran and Washington, the Chinese Ministry of Defense said Thursday.
China will send the Xining destroyer, which is equipped with missiles, to the maneuvers, which will continue until Monday, and aim to deepen cooperation between the navies of the three countries, said Ministry spokesman Wu Qian in a monthly press briefing.
He added that the maneuvers are a "normal military exchange" between the armed forces of the three countries and are consistent with international law and practices "not necessarily linked to the situation in the region," but he did not elaborate.
The Sea of Oman in particular is a sensitive waterway, as it is connected to the Strait of Hormuz, through which it passes about a fifth of the global oil flows, which is connected to the Gulf.
Tensions have increased since last year when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw his country from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with six countries and reimpose sanctions against them, which paralyzed the Iranian economy.
The United States proposed the formation of a naval group led by it after several attacks in May and June on international commercial ships, including Saudi tankers, in the Gulf waters, in which Washington blamed Tehran, which denied the accusation.
Iran's controversial nuclear program was not the only reason for the escalation of tension in the region, as tensions were also exacerbated by an attack on two Saudi oil facilities in September and Washington and Riyadh accused Tehran of responsibility for it, which Iran also denies.
China has diplomatic, commercial, and energy relations with Iran, but it also has good relations with Iran, Iran's regional rival, which means it has long had to be very careful in a part of the world where it used to exercise much less influence compared to the United States, Russia, France, or Britain .
Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to visit Saudi Arabia next year when he hosts the G20 summit.