China will hold joint naval drills with Iran and Russia in the coming weeks, as Iranian-backed Houthi militias and US forces mount strikes and counter-strikes in the Middle East, reported on February 6.

Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported on February 5 that according to Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, Commander of Iran’s Navy, the exercise, aimed at ensuring regional security, will be held in the common interests of its participants. 

Iran’s Tasnim news agency  reported on February 5 that Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani has said that military forces from Iran, Russia and China are going to stage a joint naval war game in the coming weeks.  

Speaking at a naval base in Iran’s northern city of Manjil on Monday, Rear Admiral Irani reportedly said the joint exercise will be held before the end of the current Iranian year (March 19).

The commander reportedly noted that a number of other countries have also been invited to attend the joint drill.

The war game will be held with the purpose of ensuring regional security and fulfilling common interests, he added, according to Tasnim news agency.

The reports did not state where the drills were set to be staged, but the navies of the three countries conducted trilateral exercises in the Gulf of Oman in March of last year.

This year’s drills come as tensions simmer in the Middle East, with a US-led coalition launching a third round of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday.

The strikes were in response to earlier attacks by the Houthi rebel group on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.  The Pentagon said some 36 targets in 13 locations in Yemen were struck in the latest round of strikes aimed at disrupting the abilities of the Iran-backed group.

China has not formally condemned the Houthis.  But according to Reuters, Chinese officials have asked their Iranian counterparts to help rein in attacks on ships in the Red Sea carried out by the group.

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) first reported on the joint exercise with Russia and China in December. But at that time, Irani did not elaborate on when the drills would take place. The Iranian commander said then that Pakistan, Brazil, Oman, India and South Africa were among the countries invited as observers.

Last year’s navy drills, dubbed “Security Bond-2023”, ran for five days and involved live-fire suppression and strike precision.  The navies also conducted anti-terrorism and anti-piracy training, including a simulated rescue mission to a hijacked merchant ship.