BEIJING (AP) -- A pair of Russia navy ships are visiting China as the countries reaffirm their military ties amid Russia's war in Ukraine.
The Cold War-era frigates Gromkiy and Otlichnyy arrived in the financial hub of Shanghai, China's largest city and biggest port, on Wednesday for a seven-day visit.
Following the port call, the ships will conduct joint drills with their Chinese counterparts focusing on ship-to-ship communications, maneuvering in formation and maritime search and rescue, state television's military channel reported Thursday.
The visit follows a meeting Monday in Beijing between China's defense minister and the head of Russia's navy, the first formal military talks between the friendly neighbors since a short-lived mutiny by the Russian mercenary group Wagner.
China has reassured Russia of its continued support since the uprising, and Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu told Russian Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov that China hoped for increased exchanges, joint exercises and other forms of cooperation to help defense ties "reach a new level," the Chinese Defense Ministry said.
"The Chinese and Russian navies have close exchanges and frequent interactions," the ministry quoted Li as saying. "It is hoped that the two sides will strengthen communication at all levels, regularly organize joint training, joint patrols and joint war games."
China operates the world's largest navy by number of hulls and vastly outstrips Russia's navy in both size and technical ability. The countries' fleets have held a series of exercises and joint maneuvers since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, as have their air forces.
In February, Russia and China joined with the South African navy for drills off the African coast in what the South African opposition said was tantamount to an endorsement of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The military cooperation embodies the Chinese and Russian governments' informal alliance. They also align their foreign policies and positions at the United Nations, where Beijing has consistently provided diplomatic cover for Moscow.
While saying it is neutral in the Ukraine war, China has stood solidly beside Russia, accusing the U.S. and NATO of provoking Moscow and of fueling the bloodshed by helping arm Ukraine.
Despite that, China has repeatedly said it would not provide arms to either side in the conflict and would pay close attention to the export of "dual-use" items that could be adapted for military purposes.