Exercise to improve mutual understanding

Source: China DailyEditor: Zhang Tao
2016-07-04 08:47

Under a sunny sky on Thursday morning, the five Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy ships docking respectively at Piers 7 and 8 of Pearl Harbor look shiny.

Between the two piers, a soccer team, comprising members of their crews, is warming up in preparation for an afternoon match with the team from USS Santa Fe, a Los Angeles-class submarine.

Soccer is just one of several sports that the PLA Taskforce 153 will participate in as part of the Rim of the Pacific multilateral naval exercises, better known as RIMPAC 2016.

China first participated in the biennial RIMPAC in 2014. The fleet this time comprises the missile destroyer Xi'an; missile frigate Hengshui; supply ship Gaoyouhu; hospital ship Peace Ark and the submarine rescue vessel Changdao; three helicopters, a marine squad and a diving squad, including 1,200 officers and soldiers. The crew size is only smaller than that of the US and Canada among all 26 countries take part.

On the deck of the missile destroyer Xi'an on Thursday morning, Wu Xi, the deputy chief of mission of the Chinese embassy in Washington, led an embassy delegation on a tour of the ship. Peace Ark is the only Chinese PLA vessel that is participating in the RIMPAC for a second time.

She said despite its growing power, China will be a strong force for maintaining peace. "Such exchanges help to improve mutual understanding. They are beneficial to the bilateral country-to-country and military-to-military relationship," she said.

Zhiqun Zhu, associate professor of political science and international relations at the Bucknell University, said military-to-military exchanges between the two countries are extremely important.

"It's further evidence that both sides are interested in keeping the communication channels open. Such exchanges may or may not be able to dispel misunderstanding, but they are helpful for keeping decision-makers engaged in a frank atmosphere, which will greatly reduce the chance of direct conflict," he said.

Richard Solomon, a senior fellow at the Rand Corp and a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the military-to-military exchanges are very important for the two countries to understand each other.

"These exchanges are very important because misunderstanding could be very serious. So that's a positive thing," he said.

During the RIMPAC 2016, from June 30 to Aug 4, the PLA Navy fleet will take part in drills including gunfire, anti-piracy and search and rescue operations.

A total of 26 nations, 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC 2016 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. This year is the 25th of exercises in the series, which began in 1971.

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