Peace Ark docks at San Diego

Updated: 2015-11-04 06:34

By Chang Jun(China Daily USA)

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Peace Ark docks at San Diego

Peace Ark Task Group Commander Senior Captain Guan Bailin (right) poses with Wu Xi, minister of Chinese Embassy in US (center); Captain Jose Acosta at Naval Medical Center San Diego (second from right); Captain Melanie Merrick at USNS Mercy (third from right) and senior captain Sun Tao (left) after a tour of the China PLA hospital ship (below) that arrived in San Diego on Tuesday for a five-day visit in the US. Chang Jun / China Daily

It's called Harmonious Mission 2015 and it just struck a chord in California.

The hospital ship Peace Ark, a member of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, arrived at the Port of San Diego on Tuesday morning, kicking off a five-day friendly visit to the US.

A grand welcoming ceremony, with a marching band playing the Chinese and American national anthems, was held at the wharf.

Peace Ark task group commander Senior Captain Guan Bailin, was joined by commanding officer Guo Baofeng, Minster of the Chinese Embassy in the US Wu Xi, Deputy Consul General of the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles Wang Lei and ship’s officers and sailors who exchanged greetings with their US counterparts.

Led by commanding officer Captain Jose Acosta of the Naval Medical Center-San Diego, the US delegation included Captain Melanie Merrick of the USNS Mercy and representatives from US military healthcare providers, as well as members of the Chinese-American community.

"We are excited to visit the beautiful city of San Diego," said Guan at a reception held on deck. "This is the fourth stop on the Peace Ark's seven-country voyage. We have already visited Malaysia, Australia and French Polynesia since the ship started its mission on Sept 23."

"The Peace Ark is sailing the Pacific Ocean to advance military diplomacy, medical exchanges and cultural communications with foreign countries," said Guan, adding his ship provides free medical and humanitarian services to local residents, Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese along the route.

The US counterpart USNS Mercy has arranged comprehensive and well-rounded programs for the visiting Peace Ark, according to Minister Wu Xi.

"Hospital and hospital ship visits, research collaboration and seminars will be some of the highlights of Peace Ark's five-day stay in San Diego," she said.

Showing US officers and sailors around Peace Ark, Guan said the first-ever Chinese hospital ship to visit to San Diego was an important component of the ongoing China-US military exchanges.

"The US and China maintain regular military exchanges and communications," he said.

Despite disagreements and tensions concerning issues such as South China Sea, the Peace Ark is here in the US to promote a deeper mutual understanding and enhance mutual trust between two of the world's big countries, said Guan, adding that China would continue its efforts to join with other countries to safeguard a harmonious ocean and contribute to world peace and regional stability.

During his meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington on Sept 25, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that military-to-military ties are a vital component of China-US relations and the two sides should maintain the strong momentum in high-level military dialogue and collaboration they have established.

Captain Acosta said he was impressed by the ship, crew members and facilities and equipment onboard the Peace Ark.

"Medical service providers throughout the world belong to one family regardless of their nationalities," he said. "We are all united by the shared bond of providing safe medical treatment to our patients."

Acosta will receive the Peace Ark crew Wednesday for a visit to the Naval Medical Center.

"We need to better understand each other and learn from best medical practices," he said. "I can see only a growth in future bilateral exchanges between our hospitals."

The fifth Harmonious Mission carried out by the Peace Ark in 2010 completed its first overseas deployment and was sent to Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles, and Bangladesh to provide medical treatment to residents.

In late 2011, Peace Ark traveled through the Caribbean and South America, visiting Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica.

In 2013, the ship was sent to the Philippines to provide medical care in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan. It visited four countries in South Pacific in 2014.

Senior Captain Sun Tao described the mission of Peace Ark as one designed to rescue and treat the wounded and sick at sea during wartime. "During peacetime it conducts medical services, as well as humanitarian assistance. It also acts as a platform for medical staff to conduct research and training," Sun explained.

The ship has eight operating theaters that can perform up to 40 major surgeries a day, 20 intensive care unit beds, 300 regular hospital beds, extensive diagnostic and examination facilities, including an x-ray room, ultrasound room and a C-T scanner. There is also an examination room for clinical specimens.

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