Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) presided yesterday over an international naval review in the northern port of Qingdao that highlights Beijing’s ambitions of becoming a major sea power.
Ships and naval aircraft from China and 14 other countries took part in the display in the East China Sea, the first-ever hosted by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in honor of its 60th anniversary.
Hu announced the start of the display from aboard the Chinese destroyer Shijiazhuang accompanied by the Chinese navy’s commander, Admiral Wu Shengli (吳勝利), Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) and other top military brass.
Two Chinese nuclear submarines took part, state media said, the first known public display of the potent naval weapons.
Earlier, 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,” Hu 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.”
The gathering was portrayed by state media as a signal of China’s intent to develop its navy into a force able to conduct operations far from home ports in defense of the country’s maritime trade.
Those plans are believed to include the addition of one or more aircraft carriers to the fleet over the coming years, possibly emboldening China in enforcing its territorial claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
China deployed its anti-piracy patrol to Somalia in December in a rare joint operation with other navies. It was the first time China had dispatched ships abroad on a combat mission.
The PLAN operates more subs than any other Asian nation, with up to 10 nuclear-powered vessels.
The country’s nuclear-powered Jin and Shang class submarines are considered just a notch below cutting-edge US and Russian craft. Its diesel-electric Yuan class also boasts an indigenously developed air-independent propulsion system that allows vessels to remain submerged for weeks.
Xinhua news agency said Chinese vessels participating in the half-hour display included two diesel-electric and two nuclear submarines, five missile destroyers, six frigates, and a large amphibious landing ship.
Other countries participating included Australia, Brazil, France, India, South Korea, Pakistan and Russia. Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, represented the US Navy at the events, along with the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.
Japan sent Vice Admiral Koji Kato, but did not participate in the naval review in deference to Chinese sensitivities over Japan’s World War II invasion. Japanese forces controlled Qingdao from 1914 to 1922 and again from 1938 to 1945.