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A Chinese Taiyuan Type 052D guided-missile destroyer will take part in a fleet review hosted by Japan next week. Photo: AP

Chinese destroyer sets sail for Japan for multinational fleet review

  • Taiyuan Type 052D will join vessels from the United States, Australia and India for international event in Sagami Bay
  • PLA Navy has never before taken part in a review organised by Japan, but while there will host a reception to ‘deepen communication with the navies of other countries and improve mutual understanding’
China has sent one of its newest and most advanced destroyers to take part in a naval review hosted by Japan next week, Chinese state media said, in the latest effort to improve relations between the two nations at the military level despite their ongoing territorial disputes.

The Taiyuan 131, a Type 052D guided-missile destroyer carrying a helicopter and 200 crew, set sail from a military port in Zhoushan, east China’s Zhejiang province, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday, without giving a departure date.

The ship is expected to join vessels from the United States, Australia and India for the multinational fleet review hosted by the Japanese navy – known as the Maritime Self-Defence Force – in Sagami Bay, southwest of Tokyo, on October 15.
South Korea, which is engaged in an increasingly bitter political and trade dispute with Japan, was not invited to take part.
Japan and China remain locked in a territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands. Photo: Kyodo

While in Japan the crew of the Taiyuan will host an on-board reception for representatives of the other nations involved, the report said.

Its aim was to “deepen communication with the navies of other countries and improve mutual understanding, and promote cooperation and mutual trust”, Gong Yuanxin, the vice-captain of the Taiyuan, was quoted as saying.

The deck of the vessel would also be opened to the public, he said.

The Type 052D is the PLA Navy’s first dedicated multi-role destroyer and is expected to become the mainstay of the destroyer fleet as Beijing seeks to upgrade its operational capabilities at sea.

An upgraded version of the nation’s first Aegis-style destroyer – the Type 052C – the Taiyuan has a displacement capacity of more than 6,000 tonnes and is equipped with a vertical missile launching system and a flat-panelled active electronically scanned array radar system.

This is the first time the People’s Liberation Army Navy has participated in a naval review hosted by Japan and comes after Tokyo sent a Suzutsuki destroyer to join a naval parade held in April off the coast of east China’s Shandong province to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the PLA Navy.

Military observers said Beijing’s decision to send an advanced destroyer to the fleet review was evidence of its desire to improve ties with Tokyo.

“Better military ties can help the two sides to better control risk and bring more stability to northeast Asia, which is in both their interests,” said Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator.

Relations between China and Japan have improved significantly since Chinese President Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet in October last year for the visit to Beijing of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Also, after years of conflict over wartime grievances and sovereignty claims in the East China Sea, the two Asian giants are now facing similar dilemmas and pressures brought about by the unconventional economic and foreign policies employed by US President Donald Trump.

Chinese President Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: EPA-EFE

However, tensions remain high in the East China Sea because of the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands – or Senkaku as they are known in Japan – where China’s maritime law enforcement vessels have conducted regular patrols since 2012.

Beijing has also sent warships, including the Taiyuan, to sail through the Miyako Strait near Japanese waters in what it says as regular drills.

For its part, Tokyo has been critical of Beijing’s military build-up in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest and resource-rich waterways. China claims almost 80 per cent of the sea as its sovereign territory but is embroiled in multiple disputes with other nations in the region as well as the US and its allies.
In its annual defence white paper released last month, Japan said China had replaced North Korea as its main security threat. Chinese patrols in waters and skies near Japanese territory were a “national security concern”, it said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: PLA sends cutting edge ship to join Japanese review