Russia will launch missiles and test torpedoes as part of a surprise inspection of its Pacific naval fleet, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Friday.
The drills come at a time of increased tension in the Asia-Pacific region, as the US and South Korea conduct combined air exercises in response to North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile test.
“The main goal of this inspection is to improve the Armed Forces’ ability to repel the aggression of a potential enemy from the direction of the ocean and sea,” Shoigu said on state television.
Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said Russia’s naval forces would be put on high alert during the drills and deployed to training areas, where they will conduct combat exercises.
The drills will also simulate an enemy landing on Russia’s Sakhalin island and on its southern Kuril Islands, some of which are claimed by Japan in a territorial dispute dating back to the end of World War Two.
Asked about the exercises, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down any connection with regional tensions.
“This is a common practice, it has been constantly carried out in recent years and it continues. This is about maintaining the necessary level of combat readiness of our armed forces,” Peskov told a daily news briefing.
In other recent military activity in the area, Russia’s navy fired supersonic anti-ship missiles at a mock target in the Sea of Japan on March 28.
Russia also flew two strategic bomber planes over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours earlier in March, just as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was starting a visit to Ukraine to show solidarity with Kyiv in its war with invading Russian forces.