SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A Chinese naval fleet held a scheduled military exercise with the Russian navy in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad on Sunday in the first of planned exercises this year to strengthen their cooperation, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The "Joint Sea-2017" exercise follows similar ones held last year, and more exercises will be held in late July in the Baltic Sea, and in mid-September in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, it added.
The Chinese fleet, which sailed out from Hainan province in southern China, consisted of the missile destroyer Changsha, missile frigate Yuncheng, a comprehensive supply ship, ship-borne helicopters and marines, it said.
China and Russia are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, and have held similar views on many major issues such as the crisis in Syria, often putting them at odds with the United States and Western Europe.
They have previously held naval drills in the fiercely-contested South China Sea which China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims over.
Xinhua said the theme of this year's drills was "joint rescue and protection of maritime economic activities".
Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Michael Perry