Special forces from China and Saudi Arabia have held their first joint anti-terrorism drills, state media reported, in China’s latest effort to expand security ties in the Middle East.
The two-week training, which took place in China’s southwestern city of Chongqing from October 10, was attended by 25 people from each side, the People’s Liberation Army Daily said.
“This joint anti-terrorism training is directed at raising the two militaries’ ability to combat terrorism and non-traditional security threats,” the paper said on Thursday.
China’s President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia early this year, vowing to expand security cooperation and oppose terrorism.
Chinese officials have long been concerned that instability in Afghanistan will spill over into China’s western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, where hundreds have died in unrest the government blames on separatists.
Authorities in bordering Kyrgyzstan said a suicide bomb attack this August on the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital was ordered by Uighur fighters active in Syria.
In the face of such threats, China set up an anti-terrorism alliance with neighbours Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, which all border Xinjiang, in August.
From October 20 to October 24, more than 400 troops from China and Tajikistan held joint anti-terrorism drills along the remote mountainous Tajik border with Afghanistan, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.
Human rights groups say violence in Xinjiang is more a reaction to repressive government policies and limits on Uighurs’ religious freedoms, accusations the government denies.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Uighurs have fled the unrest and travelled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey.