Can we train together? PLA officer uses US ships' port visit to boost ties

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 4:34am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 4:34am

Two senior Chinese and American naval officials yesterday agreed that their two forces should share training so they can improve understanding between the countries' navies.

The idea was raised when the US 7th Fleet's command ship USS Blue Ridge visited the port of Qingdao in Shandong province, according to a statement released by the US Navy.

The lieutenant commander of the PLA navy vessel Harbin, Guan Qiwu, was quoted as saying: "Do you think PLA Navy officers could visit 7th Fleet ships and receive [shared] training?"

Vice Admiral Robert Thomas said both navies could work together closely in future on operations and exercises, on exchanging information and in training.

Senior American and Chinese leaders have recently spoken of the need for closer ties between the two countries' militaries.

China's ties with its neighbours have also become increasingly strained over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said in April that there was a heightened risk of a clash between the United States and China in the region as the world's two largest militaries come into closer contact.

US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus also urged the two countries to deepen military ties last week.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based retired PLA officer, said yesterday's comments showed the two sides realised the need for closer naval contacts.

"I believe it might be the first time a PLA senior official has asked the US for shared training," he said.

US and PLA warship crews have occasionally trained together, but only on small-scale exercises. Mabus told The Wall Street Journal last week that Washington would welcome more naval exercises with the PLA and port visits by ships of the two countries' navies.