Russia’s Arms Transport Ship Angara Docked in Chinese Port Amid Stern US Warnings

Vladimir Putin has scheduled a May visit to China amid heightened Sino-Russian interactions.

A series of significant events have underscored the growing relationship between China and Russia, capturing global attention. Amid a visit from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China and stern warnings directed at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), pivotal diplomatic and military engagements have unfolded. Notably, the defense ministers of both countries held in-person talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an upcoming visit to China in May, and a Russian ship, known for transporting arms, is currently docked in China undergoing repairs.

On April 25, the Russian ship Angara, which has a history of ferrying weapons between Russia and North Korea, was found docked at Zhoushan, China. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a UK-based defense and security think tank, reports that since last August, the Angara has transported thousands of containers, presumed to contain North Korean ammunition, to Russian ports.

Asked about the Russian ship on Monday, the State Department’s deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel underscored the gravity with which the United States views the increasing collaboration between Russia and China, particularly concerning support for Russia’s defense industry.

“This is something that we take incredibly seriously,” Mr. Patel stated. He highlighted the concerted discussions by U.S. officials, including the secretary of state, over the growing closeness of the two nations, which he described as not only a regional risk but also a direct affront to Ukraine. “We’re going to continue to take appropriate steps to hold relevant actors accountable,” he affirmed.

The ship has been stationed at the Xinya Shipyard in Zhoushan, Zhejiang—advertised as China’s largest privately-owned ship repair company—since February.

Recent satellite imagery from Planet Labs PBC in San Francisco confirms the Angara’s presence at the shipyard. Interestingly, the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder, which is typically used for tracking, was only activated briefly while the vessel navigated through the busy Korean Strait, likely for security reasons.

According to RUSI, the Angara reached Chinese waters on Feb. 9, ostensibly for maintenance or repair purposes. It had previously made stops in North Korean and Russian ports in January, during which it had deactivated its transponder. The transponder was turned off again shortly after it arrived in China.

RUSI has documented that since August 2023, the Angara has completed at least 11 trips between North Korea’s Rajin Port and various Russian ports, utilizing open-source data to monitor North Korea’s circumvention of international sanctions. Since May 2022, the vessel has been subject to U.S. sanctions.

Following a 2022 visit to North Korea by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Angara and two other Russian cargo ships embarked on what RUSI describes as “unusual journeys,” indicative of a coordinated effort within Moscow’s military transport operations.

Moreover, two Russian firms involved in owning and operating the Angara have faced U.S. sanctions since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Despite these complexities, the Chinese Embassy in Washington has claimed it is unaware of the specifics concerning the Angara, claiming that the CCP “always opposes unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law or mandate from the Security Council.”

The incident underscores ongoing tensions, as the United States and several other nations have explicitly condemned North Korea’s weapons transfers to Russia, citing clear violations of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Intensifying Sino-Russian Military Cooperation

On April 25, during a meeting of the defense ministers from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states in Kazakhstan, a significant bilateral discussion took place between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart, Dong Jun. This meeting marked Mr. Dong’s first in-person engagement with Mr. Shoigu since assuming office at the end of the previous year.

Reports say Mr. Dong highlighted the critical role of high-level military interactions between China and Russia in navigating the evolving international landscape, stressing their importance for global strategic stability. Mr. Shoigu echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the necessity of their military cooperation—which includes regular joint naval, land, and air exercises and combat training—for maintaining both global and regional stability.

Mr. Shoigu attributed the current international geopolitical tensions to the West’s “geopolitical escapades and selfish neocolonial activities.” He remarked that the cooperation between Russia and China across various sectors has reached unparalleled levels, anchored in equality, mutual trust, and respect for each other’s core interests. He expressed that this meeting would further enhance the strategic defense collaboration between the two nations.

Concurrently with the defense ministers’ discussions, Mr. Putin announced that he plans to visit China in May, though he did not provide specific dates or further details. This announcement was made at an event organized by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and reported by Russian media.

The visit could represent the Russian president’s first international trip following his re-election, adding to its significance. Mr. Putin, now 71, is poised to begin his fifth six-year term after an inauguration ceremony scheduled for May 7. His upcoming journey to Beijing is planned shortly thereafter.

Entering another term, Mr. Putin becomes one of Russia’s longest-serving leaders. However, the ongoing conflict he initiated against Ukraine has led to significant international isolation. In this context, his reliance on Beijing has intensified, seeking support across political, economic, and diplomatic fronts.

Heightened Diplomatic Tensions, Western Warnings

According to recent U.S. assessments, Chinese companies have notably ramped up their exports to Russia, supplying an array of technologies and materials such as machine tools, microelectronics, and other vital components. This influx has reportedly bolstered the Russian military’s capability to manufacture more advanced and robust weaponry, including missiles, tanks, and aircraft.

Despite these developments, Beijing continues to project an image of neutrality and often attempts to manipulate the narrative surrounding its interactions with Russia.

At a regular press conference on April 26, when questioned about the CCP’s supply of microelectronic products and satellite technology to Russia, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin dismissed these allegations as baseless attempts to “shift conflicts.” Mr. Wang insisted that the trade relations between China and Russia were “normal,” and controversially claimed that over sixty percent of the components used in Russian weapons are sourced from the United States and Western countries.

Nevertheless, the discrepancy between the CCP’s public declarations and its actions has seemingly eroded trust among Western nations, particularly the United States and NATO.

On April 25, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg delivered a stark warning to the CCP, emphasizing that if China wishes to maintain favorable relations with Western countries, it must cease its support for Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

This warning coincided with a significant diplomatic event, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in China from April 24 to 26. During his visit, Mr. Blinken met with top Chinese officials including Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. It is widely speculated that Mr. Blinken’s visit served as a platform to deliver a definitive ultimatum to the CCP regarding its support for Russia.

In a press briefing on the final day of his visit, Mr. Blinken articulated the U.S. position with emphasis, stating that Russia’s ongoing military aggression against Ukraine would be unsustainable without the CCP’s backing. He warned, “If China does not address this issue, we will.”

Confronted with a firm stance by the United States, the CCP appeared to recalibrate its approach, moving away from its aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

Subsequent reporting by Chinese state-owned media notably downplayed the contentious issues, focusing instead on promoting the narrative of China-U.S. friendship.


Read More

Leave a Reply