Chinese navy officers find value in US visit

Updated: 2015-02-12 11:29

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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Chinese navy officers find value in US visit

A Chinese navy officer (right) talks with his counterparts in the US navy in Newport, Rhode Island, last week as part of a six-day exchange program. Twenty-nine officers visited military installations along the US East Coast. Provided to China Daily

Last week's visit to the United States by officers of the Chinese navy will deepen mutual understanding and help reduce misunderstandings and misjudgments at sea, delegation members told China Daily.

"In the past, when our ships met at sea, both of us - captains from the two navies - didn't know what the other side was thinking or how we should communicate with each other," said Commander Zhao Yanquan, captain of a missile destroyer of the South Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army navy.

"Through the visit, we began to get acquainted personally and shared our thoughts on many things," Zhao said.

Twenty-nine navy officers, two of them women, flew to Washington on Feb 1 for the start of a six-day exchange program with their US counter-parts.

"We found that no matter which navy we serve, we have some common problems, such as long-time separation from children," Zhao said.

"What is interesting is that we both thought our ship designers should spend more time with sailors so they can avoid stupid designs," he added.

The officers visited Washington; Newport, Rhode Island; and New York City.

They toured the US Naval Academy, Surface Warfare Officers School and the Naval War College, and took part in seminars with trainees at the Surface Warfare Officers School, according to the PLA navy headquarters.

Most of the Chinese officers are young commanders from the PLA navy's combat units and have participated in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden or multinational naval events, the statement said, adding this is the first time the navy has sent a large delegation of front-line commanders to an exchange event with the US navy.

During their discussions, officers from both sides explored the application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, which was approved by naval officials from more than 20 Asia-Pacific countries in April at a symposium in China.

The code is intended to head off accidents and miscommunication at sea to reduce the possibility of conflict.

Last year, China and the US conducted two joint exercises on the use of CUES.

"The visit aimed to strengthen relations between younger officers of the two navies, and to enrich our officers' knowledge of the US and its armed forces, especially the US navy," said Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, head of the delegation and a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute.

Zhang noted: "We also hope the program will help improve our personnel training mechanism."

Zhang said members of the delegation came from destroyers, frigates, submarines, aviation units and the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

"They have rich experience as front-line commanders," he said. "Some of them have taken part in joint drills with the US navy," Zhang said.

Commander Justin Kubu, director of fleet division officer and international training at the Surface Warfare Officers School, said: "This engagement provided a unique opportunity for current and prospective commanding officers from both nations to learn more about each other professionally. I feel the event was very positive and aligned well with the continuing effort to build mutual trust between our two navies."

Zhao, the Chinese missile destroyer captain, pointed out: "As an emerging naval power, China can learn a lot from the US navy to see where we can improve. For instance, many delegation members, including me, were quite impressed by the US navy's training system for its large group of seasoned instructors, who are former front-line commanders."