Foreign ships grace PLA Navy's 60th anniversary party

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am

Naval vessels from 14 countries gathered at the northeastern coastal city of Qingdao yesterday as the People's Liberation Army Navy kicked off a three-day celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of its founding.

For China's biggest party yet to showcase its naval prowess, 21 ships from countries including close neighbours South Korea, Russia and Thailand, and the United States, were invited to dock at Qingdao port.

Conspicuously absent is the Japanese navy, although the United States' destroyer USS Fitzgerald, which will attend the celebrations, is based in Japan.

Japanese media reported that Japanese ships were not invited for fear it might anger the Chinese public, still deeply scarred by the military invasion in the 1930s and its attendant atrocities.

The bulk of China's first modern naval force was annihilated in a humiliating defeat by the Imperial Japanese Navy in a battle 115 years ago.

Until last week, state media put the number of countries that would send naval ships to Qingdao at 15. But the number was revised to 14 yesterday in Xinhua and China News Service reports, which did not specify which country had dropped out.

Naval representatives from 25 countries have also been invited to the celebration, which includes a Chinese naval parade on Thursday and several seminars.

The parade will be the third of its kind since 1957.

Navy officials have described this one as the biggest yet, which will showcase many sophisticated weapons such as the country's most advanced nuclear submarines and new fighter jets.

At the celebration's opening ceremony yesterday, navy chief Admiral Wu Shengli said the three-day event, with a 'harmonious ocean' theme, aimed at providing a platform for exchanges between navies.

'The oceans have become everyone's home under globalisation,' Admiral Wu said. 'But now the oceans are not safe,' he said, citing piracy and terrorism.

A dozen countries have sent warships to troubled waters off Somalia to fight off pirates. Admiral Wu said these were joint efforts to safeguard maritime peace.

He said the PLA Navy would be transformed to embrace new technology and become more diversified.

Zhang Shiping, a researcher with the PLA's Academy of Military Sciences, told Xinhua that the idea of inviting an international array of naval personnel was to build foundations for further exchanges.

Zhang Xiaolin of the Navy Command Academy was also cited by Xinhua as saying that the international assembly would help hasten the PLA Navy's integration with the international community.

Before arriving in Qingdao, US chief of naval operations Admiral Gary Roughead said at the weekend that he considered the trip to Qingdao important as it would help clarify what China's intentions were regarding its naval build-up.