Hong Kong port call 'not linked to Varyag sea trials'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 August, 2011, 12:00am


The commander of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group says the vessels' port visit to Hong Kong this weekend is in no way connected with the sea trials of China's first aircraft carrier.

Rear Admiral Robert Girrier spoke shortly after the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carrier berthed in waters off Stonecutters Island. It is accompanied by a cruiser and two destroyers. Sea trials of the Varyag, a former Soviet carrier that China bought as a stripped-down hull from Ukraine in 1998 before refitting it in Dalian , in the northeastern province of Liaoning , began this week. The ship will be renamed once it is commissioned.

Girrier sidestepped repeated questions about the maiden voyage of the Varyag in the Yellow Sea on Wednesday, saying: 'Our visit is a routine trip that has been planned many months in advance. I have no specific comment on the Varyag's sea trial.' Three Chinese-born, Cantonese-speaking members of the Ronald Reagan's crew were on hand to take questions. Wu Mingluan, an information system technician, and Peng Hanqin , a personnel specialist, both said the first they had heard of the Varyag's sea trial was when they were told about it by Hong Kong reporters yesterday. 'I've never heard anyone talking about it until now,' said Peng, a native of Chaozhou in Guangdong.

Kim Yu, a mechanical engineer who joined the navy shortly after emigrating to the US about 10 years ago, said that as a Chinese he was happy to see his former homeland emerge as a strong and wealthy country. But when asked what side he would take if a conflict were to break out between the US and China, Yu said: 'As a US citizen, I would certainly stand by my country in that case.'

Yu said China still had a long way to catch up with the US in terms of military capability.

All three were looking forward to their shore leave. The ships leave on Tuesday.