The Chinese army for the first time has deployed armored medical vehicles and personnel to Europe to conduct training with the German military, marking a groundbreaking foray into NATO territory, according to US military publication, Stars and Stripes.

The exercise, dubbed Combined Aid 2019 and involving about 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army medics, was a joint drill in the Bavarian town of Feldkirchen focused on responding to a simulated cholera outbreak, the report said.

The exercise takes place at a time of growing strains between the German government and the Trump administration over a range of issues, including Berlin’s laggard defense spending and Germany’s support for a natural gas pipeline from Russia.

“The participating teams will practice joint command and control and will learn to cooperate in treating and managing mass casualties in large-scale disease outbreaks,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said in multiple state-controlled media outlets as the exercises began last week.

The two-week exercise, which is set to end on July 17, has garnered headlines in China, where the training in Germany was characterized as part of an effort to strengthen ties with European nations.

“We’ve seen China increasing its participation in these kinds of activities. It provides a low risk means to demonstrate its commitment to global governance, which may help reduce anxiety about its growing military capabilities,” China watcher Matthew Funaiole, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

“Training exercises also help improve its coordination and logistics, which is helpful for the modernization process,” he added.

PLA’s paramedical forces have in recent years actively participated in foreign exchanges and cooperation projects, including its aid to the fight against the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Liberia; the “Peace Train-2018” joint humanitarian and medical rescue exercise in Laos; and the free clinics with the Vietnamese army along the country’s borders, Xinhua reported.