China and Malaysia have announced that they will hold their first-ever joint military exercises, despite their rival claims to the tense South China Sea.

The announcement by Malaysia’s Hishammuddin Hussein, who is in Beijing to meet Chinese military leaders, follows a visit to Kuala Lumpur earlier this month by China’s President Xi Jinping, in which the two countries pledged closer ties.

“Malaysia and China are expected to launch our first joint exercise in 2014 after the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation was signed in 2005,” Hishammuddin said in a statement.

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