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China sets sail on unity for 'harmonious' seas

PRESIDENT Hu Jintao yesterday presided over an international naval review that highlighted China's desire to cooperate with other navies to keep the world's waters safe.

Ships and naval aircraft from China and 14 other countries took part in the display in the Yellow Sea off the northern port of Qingdao, the first such international gathering.

It was hosted by the People's Liberation Army Navy in honor of its 60th anniversary.

Hu, who also heads the Communist Party commission that commands the armed forces, announced the start of the display from aboard the Chinese destroyer Shijiazhuang, accompanied by the Chinese navy's commander, Admiral Wu Shengli, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and other top military brass.

Earlier in the day, Hu met with US and other foreign naval commanders, telling them China supported increased cooperation among navies to safeguard maritime safety.

"Strengthening exchanges between the navies of all countries and embarking on international maritime safety cooperation substantially contributes to the building of harmonious oceans and seas," the president said.

The president also repeated China's position that the country would never threaten other nations or seek regional dominance and that its military "will always be a force for the preservation of world peace and advancement of common development."

"For now and in the future, China would never seek hegemony, nor would it turn to military expansion or arms races with other nations," he said.

The PLA Navy parade, the fourth staged in China since 1949 but the first to be held on an international scale, displayed 25 of China's vessels, including two nuclear-powered submarines, and naval aircraft.

Foreign flags

The parade was followed by an international fleet review featuring the participation of 21 foreign vessels, including the American destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the Russian cruiser CG-011 Varyag.

More than 200 military officers from foreign embassies in China, reporters and Chinese people observed the fleet review on the viewing ship Zhenghe, named after a Chinese maritime explorer who sailed about 600 years ago.

Rear Admiral Zhang Shiying, deputy commander of the PLA Navy's Beihai (North Sea) Fleet, pointed out that all the Chinese vessels and aircraft on display were independently designed and built by China and represented the latest stage of PLA Navy equipment.

All the submarines and aircraft and the majority of the warships in the parade came from the Qingdao-based Beihai Fleet.

"The goal is to showcase the development of the PLA Navy over the past six decades," Zhang said.

Admiral Wu said that the celebration was aimed at demonstrating China's determination and capability to maintain a peaceful, harmonious ocean in cooperation with other nations.

The naval parade also featured the public debut of two Chinese nuclear submarines, the Long March 6 and the Long March 3.

"To invite so many countries to the review shows that China will open more to foreign countries and in the future will be more willing to cooperate in the Gulf of Aden and other regions," said Colonel Patrick Sice, defense attache with the French Embassy in China, referring to a pirate-plagued area near the coast of Somalia.

"China is emerging as a global power, and there is nothing wrong with China's modernization of its navy and other armed forces. But more power means more responsibility and transparency. Otherwise you will lose confidence from others."

After reviewing the foreign vessels, the destroyer Shijiazhuang, with President Hu and senior military officers aboard, headed back to the Qingdao port.

Most of the visiting foreign vessels raised their anchors and began sailing back home.

Ships from Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan will stay longer in Qingdao.


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