Navy's role in multinational drills signals military transparency

Updated: 2014-08-04 07:31

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily USA)

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China is expected to participate in more multinational military drills - such as the recently completed Rim of the Pacific exercise - to demonstrate stronger security transparency and coexist with the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, senior military officers and observers said.

The media limelight shone on China as the People's Liberation Army for the first time joined the US-led RIMPAC exercise, which involved forces from more than 20 countries for drills from July 9 through Friday.

Four ships from the PLA navy with about 1,100 personnel on board joined the world's largest maritime exercise, which was first held in 1971.

Zhao Xiaogang, drill director of the Chinese fleet, said on Saturday, "The Chinese navy has shown an image full of openness and confidence and deepened mutual understanding between countries as well."

The Chinese fleet consisted of the missile destroyer Haikou, missile frigate Yueyang, supply ship Qiandaohu and hospital ship Peace Ark.

US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said on Wednesday, "Anything that increases transparency, improves our knowledge of each other's operations and lowers the risk of misunderstandings is a helpful thing."

The Wall Street Journal said the secretary's comments "mirror a softer tone taken by US military officials in recent weeks, underscoring efforts to foster firmer military ties despite strained diplomatic links".

Zhang Junshe, deputy director of the Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said Chinese ships represent the modernizing Chinese navy, "which is a gesture demonstrating openness and transparency of the navy".

Zhang also said both Beijing and Washington have displayed "sincerity for boosting the military-to-military relationship", including the United States granting considerable opportunities for newcomer China in the drills and China's positive response.

"This is helpful for establishing preliminary mutual trust (between the two defense authorities) and to eliminate feuds between them," Zhang said.

This year, RIMPAC involved more than 40 vessels, 200 aircraft and some 25,000 personnel from 22 countries, and the drills included maritime security, surface warship maneuvers, military medical exchanges, humanitarian rescues and disaster relief.

In addition to the drills, the Chinese fleet also conducted diplomacy on the waters. The Chinese navy held a shipboard reception and welcomed a range of visits from other participants in the drills.

(China Daily USA 08/04/2014 page3)