It appears the Japanese (and probably a couple of other nations) are a bit concerned about the Sino-Russian military exercises beginning tomorrow that will feature some 10,000 troops and some pretty sophisticated weapons. As the Globe and Mail put it:

When China and Russia launch their first joint military exercise tomorrow, their neighbours will be wondering why long-range strategic bombers and amphibious landing craft are being deployed in what is supposed to be an anti-terrorism drill.

The two countries are calling it Peace Mission 2005, but it looks more like a rehearsal for full-scale war. The 10,000 Russian and Chinese soldiers will be practising a variety of standard combat techniques: long-range bombing runs, cruise-missile attacks, a naval assault on a coastal beachhead and a parachute landing by paratroopers.

Japan’s Nihon Keizai reported that some in Japan’s defense establishment believe the exercise to be practice for a possible intervention in North Korea, or more specifically, to determine whether in the wake of a North Korean collapse, Sino-Russian forces can get to the DMZ faster than ROK-U.S. forces can get to the Yalu. I’m not sure if that’s actually the case, as the LAT reported that Russia originally wanted to carry out the exercise in Central Asia and China near Taiwan, with Shandong being the resulting compromise. Still, the Japanese suspicions are at least interesting to think about.

Another concern, apparently, is that the Russians may sell the Chinese a couple of Tu-22M “Backfire” bombers. Apparently, rumors of such a deal have been circulating for some time. News of such a sale in January made Charles Smith over at Newsmax more than slightly concerned. Personally, it surprises me none at all that China would wish to upgrade from Il-28s and Tu-16s. Regional powers may have to upgrade their air defenses accordingly, but that’s the way the game is played. I’m more surprised the Russians are willing to sell ’em to Beijing, although a deal is not a deal until it’s made.

Of course, those who’ve played Jetfighter IV know this so-called “exercise” is really preparation for a Sino-Russian invasion of Northern California.