BEIJING: The Chinese and Russian navies launched eight days of war games in the South China Sea on Monday, in a sign of growing cooperation between their armed forces against the backdrop of regional territorial disputes.

The “Joint Sea-2016” maneuvers include surface ships, submarines, ship-borne helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, along with marines and amphibious armoured vehicles who will conduct live-firing exercises, according to a Defense Ministry statement issued Sunday.

Tasks will include defensive and rescue drills, anti-submarine exercises and the simulated seizure of an enemy island by marines from both sides.

The exercise is part of an annual program, which “aims to consolidate and advance the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, and deepen friendly and practical cooperation between the two militaries,” Chinese navy spokesman Liang Yang was quoted as saying.

“It will also improve coordination between the two navies on joint defence operations at sea,” Liang said.

The ministry didn’t say exactly where the drills would be held in the South China Sea , home to heated territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours.

Joint Chinese-Russian drills have grown increasingly common in recent years.