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China invites foreign delegates to navy ships to boost military openness, cooperation
2009/04/23

 

    China invited senior naval officers from 29 countries Wednesday, April 22 to three People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy vessels on the sidelines of a celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PLA Navy.

    The vessels were the Great Wall 218 conventional-powered submarine, Type 054 frigate FFG-526 Wenzhou and the Peace Ark hospital ship.

    The ships, all independently designed and made by China, represented the latest stage of PLA Navy equipment, Gu Wengen, deputy commander of the force, told Xinhua Wednesday.

    According to Gu, the invitation to the foreign delegates was intended as the latest move by the PLA to demonstrate its military transparency.

    Commissioned in September 2005, the Wenzhou is one of the most modern frigates in the service of the PLA. At 4,000 tonnes, the frigate is even larger than many of the PLA's destroyers, according to Gu.

    The Great Wall 218 conventional-powered submarine is also one of China's new-generation submarines equipped with world-class sonar and weapon systems, he said.

    The Peace Ark hospital ship can provide seagoing medical services equal to those of a top hospital in Beijing.

    All three vessels were commissioned in just the past few years, said Gu, adding that the Peace Ark only went into service in December.

    "Foreign naval officers can not only learn about the modernization of China's navy by visiting the three vessels but can also feel our sincerity to expand cooperation and exchange with our foreign counterparts," Gu said.

    After a quick tour of the Peace Ark, Capt. James Fanell with the U.S. Seventh Fleet, who came from the naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, said that he was glad to see the increasing openness of the Chinese navy.

    "I was here five years ago on the USS Cushing. The openness shown by the international fleet review is much greater than that of five years ago," Fanell said.

    "It is very encouraging and appreciated to be able to walk aboard the ship and see ships of the Chinese fleet as well as other ships of the international community," he said.

    For Adm. Moura Neto of the Brazilian Navy, the Chinese navy's transparency was as surprising as its modernization.

    "I saw the real China and the real PLA navy," he said.

    China launched a grand maritime ceremony Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of its navy off the coast of the eastern city of Qingdao.

    The four-day celebration includes seminars, a sampan race and a fleet review scheduled for Thursday that will feature the debut of the country's nuclear submarines.

    A total of 21 foreign naval vessels from 14 countries, including the United States and Russia, and delegations from 29 countries will take part.

    According to Ding Yiping, deputy commander of the PLA Navy, the celebration was the first large multi-lateral military exchange of its kind in the history of the People's Republic of China.

    Naval forces from different countries had voiced support for China's call to seek mutual trust and benefits, and resolve disputes on the basis of equal consultations and negotiations, he said.

    Their support would help build harmony on the seas, the theme of this year's celebration, he said.

    Adm. Gary Roughead, the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, also said that the PLA and U.S. navies had much potential for cooperation in international humanitarian aid and joint maritime rescues in the West Pacific.

    "I believe any time one can address problems cooperatively, it makes for a more harmonious outcome. That's why I look forward to continue to work with the PLA Navy," Roughead told Xinhua at a naval symposium held in Qingdao.

    "I think navies are good opportunities to advance military-to-military relations as part of an overall relationship between nations," he said.

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