Visitors tour Chinese warships

Updated: 2014-07-07 05:11

By ZHANG SHAOHU in Pearl Harbor and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington (China Daily USA)

Visitors tour Chinese warships

Visitors embark the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy missile destroyer Haikou for a tour on the RIMPAC Open Ship Day at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, July 5, 2014. Zhang Shaohu / China Daily

The Open Ship Tour Day of the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC) on July 5 drew a flood of visitors to the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

Two Chinese ships - missile destroyer Haikou and hospital ship Peace Ark - were among ships from a dozen countries that offered open tours as part of the world's largest naval drills with 22 nations taking part.

Visitors to the Chinese ships included ordinary Americans, military personnel from various nations and journalists.

In the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic on Peace Ark, curious visitors tried to learn something about the mysteries of TCM. Ellsa Chambers, who works in the local hotel industry in Hawaii, volunteered to undergo cupping therapy.

As Zhai Xiaofeng, the TCM doctor on Peace Ark, lit an alcohol cotton ball to heat the air in a glass cup, and then removed the flaming cotton ball and placed the cup on Chambers' neck, many onlookers were dumbfounded.

According to TCM, cupping is a method of creating a vacuum on the patient's skin to dispel stagnation, stagnant blood and lymphatic fluid, thereby improving the flow of qi, the vital energy which the Chinese believe through in the body.

As Zhai explained the technique to visitors, Chambers was clearly enjoying the experience. She said she has heard of TCM before and really wanted to try it. She described it as a miraculous experience, saying that although she felt a bit nervous at first, she felt great afterwards.

The whole day tour allowed more people to get to know PLAN, which is participating in RIMPAC for the first time since it was launched during the height of Cold War in 1971.

Kelly Kambourelis, from a local law firm in Hawaii, said it was a great opportunity for her to get to visit the Chinese military vessels and she found everything very interesting.

In the guest comment book in the TCM clinic, Kelly Whaler, a visitor, wrote: "Thank you for curing patients and keeping world peace."

Four PLAN ships, with a total of 1,100 personnel, are participating in the 2014 RIMPAC, making China the second largest nation represented, trailing only the host nation US. Besides Haikou and Peace Ark, the other two PLAN ships are missile frigate Yueyang and supply ship Qiandaohu.

It is also the first time for any hospital ship to participate in RIMPAC. The two hospital ships - Peace Ark and the USS Mercy - will hold medical subject matter expert exchanges as well as simulated disaster relief operations at sea.

On July 3, Peace Ark hosted a military medical symposium attended by some 60 military medical officials from participating nations, including China, the US, Canada, South Korea, Norway and Chile.

Sun Tao, head of Peace Ark's hospital, said the multilateral experience sharing has helped all sides learn from each other and increase mutual trust. "It lays a foundation for mutual collaboration in future humanitarian assistance actions," he said.

Jeff Paulson, head of Mercy's hospital, said based on his experience, he believes Peace Ark is capable of carrying out all relevant missions.

On July 2, US Navy Surgeon General and Chief of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Vice-Admiral Matthew Nathan, also went aboard Peace Ark for a tour.

"As a US Pacific Command surgeon, one of my priorities is to develop health engagements with all of our world's nations, and we are working very hard to develop engagements with the People's Republic of China," Rear Admiral Colin Chinn, command surgeon, US Pacific Command, was quoted on the US Navy website on July 4.

"This year RIMPAC is significant; the fact that China is participating, the medical community is having a symposium and the fact that we have Peace Ark and Mercy together, actually meets one of my long term goals," Chinn said.

Peace Ark, commissioned in 2008, has been providing rapid humanitarian response to disasters around the world, including typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines late last year, despite tensions between the two nations over maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

"This is very exciting for our sailors, for our staff on the Mercy and for our Navy," said Nathan. "I am hopeful that this is just the first of many opportunities we have to partner up and learn from each other. The sea can bring tremendous damage to a country and its people, but it can also bring amazing ships like the Peace Ark and the Mercy to people to help make a difference."

"One of the highlights of the symposium was the address by our Chinese compatriots on their Peace Ark," said Canadian Army Lt Col Nicholas Withers, combined force maritime component commander surgeon, at the International Military Medical Symposium held July 1-2 aboard the USS Peleliu.

Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to August 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

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