PLA vessels join Pacific naval drill for the first time

Updated: 2014-06-27 08:13

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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After a wave of diplomatic tension in recent months, China and the United States are hoping for a period of smooth sailing as they show their willingness to improve military ties in the world's largest naval drill, which began on Thursday.

China, which is participating in the Rim of the Pacific naval exercise for the first time, sent several advanced vessels to help forge a new era in the Sino-US military relationship, National Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said on Thursday.

In a departure from normal procedure, the US allowed the Chinese forces to take part in the operations, when, normally, nations making a first appearance at the biennial event were only accorded observer status, Yang said.

The two countries have shared interests but face differences, and China believes they should work together to strengthen communication and handle those differences, Yang said at a news conference.

The exercise follows disturbances in their military relations caused by the tensions in the East and South China seas, cyberspying and other issues.

Observers said such military exchanges would help China's growing navy to become more involved with others and foster the development of efficient communication channels to prevent regional tension from escalating.

China's four ships - a missile destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship and hospital ship - with about 1,100 sailors on board, arrived in Pearl Harbor on Tuesday for the drills in and around Hawaii.

The Chinese forces ranked second in size, behind the US, of the 23 participating nations.

The head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said, "This was a big step for the Chinese to commit to this, particularly in an exercise commanded by a US commander.

"We just have to get past these issues, which are historical in nature, that are causing the regional problems," AFP quoted him as saying. "And if we keep working at it, we'll get through them."

During the drills, forces from China, the US, France, Mexico and Brunei will jointly conduct weapons firing, supplies transportation, damage control, anti-piracy and disaster-relief drills as well as coordinated interceptions and landings, and joint assaults by warships and helicopters.

Officers from the US will command the five-party team, as the commanders have to have taken part in at least two such sets of drills, the spokesman said.

Zhang Junshe, a naval expert at People's Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said by displaying its core forces, China has a good opportunity to demonstrate its transparent military policy and determination to maintain peace.

The drills also underscored the maturity of Sino-US military ties, as neither side would allow their differences to damage cooperation, Zhang said. "This is good for global peace and stability."