Navy Holds Drills with Russia
(Source: China Daily; published July 24, 2017)
One of the Chinese navy’s most modern warships, the destroyer Hefei, sails into the Russian naval base at Kaliningrad for a bilateral naval exercise that began July 21; other Chinese warships are in Greece for a goodwill visit. (Chinese MoD photo)
China and Russia kicked off their annual joint naval exercises in the Baltic Sea on Saturday, the first of their kind for the Chinese Navy in Europe.

The Chinese ships arrived at the Russian seaport of Baltiysk on Friday. This year's exercise, dubbed Joint Sea 2017, will focus on strengthening Sino-Russia naval combat and coordination capabilities, as well as practicing maritime anti-piracy and emergency rescue operations.

These regular drills, which began in 2012 in the Yellow Sea, are not targeting against any other states, defense ministries from both countries said.

The first phase of the exercise is taking place in waters off the Russian cities of Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg from Monday to Friday. The second phase will be in the Russian Far East, the Sea of Japan and Okhotsk in September, according to the Russian defense ministry.

The drill is a practical step in strengthening the Sino-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, as well as bolstering exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries, especially the navies, Vice-Admiral Tian Zhong, the deputy commander-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army Navy, said at the drill's opening ceremony on Saturday.

Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice-Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov said the Joint Sea exercises have become more professional and comprehensive since 2012.

This year's exercise will feature China's most advanced military vessels, including the Type 052D guided missile destroyer Changsha, Type 054A guided missile frigate Yuncheng and the Type 903A supply ship Luomahu.

These ships belong to the South Sea Fleet responsible for operations in the South China Sea. They set off from their home port in Sanya, Hainan province, on June 18, and conducted live-fire drills in the Mediterranean on July 10 en route to the Baltic Sea, according to China's Defense Ministry.

The Russian Navy will deploy the latest class corvettes — Steregushchiy and Boiky. In addition, nearly a dozen aircraft and helicopters from both sides, such as Ka-27 helicopters and Su-24 fighter-bombers, will take part.

Since its debut, the annual Sino-Russian naval exercise has been closely monitored by the West. This year, British, Dutch and Danish ships trailed the Chinese flotilla as it passed into the Baltic Sea.

Li Xing, a professor of international relations at Beijing Normal University, said it is understandable for Western countries to closely follow this year's drill because this is the first time the Chinese navy is conducting exercises at NATO's doorstep.

Russia has also been moving its most powerful ships, including its nuclear-powered Kirov-class battle cruiser and the Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine — the largest submarine ever built — into the Baltic Sea for the upcoming naval parade at St. Petersburg on July 30.

"The Chinese navy will learn much from this year's exercises, especially on improving far sea operations in unfamiliar waters. Such capabilities are crucial benchmarks for a strong navy, and the Chinese navy will have more in the future," he said.

The Chinese navy will learn much ... especially on improving far sea operation in -unfamiliar waters."

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Chinese Naval Fleet Arrives In Greece for Friendly Visit
(Source: Xinhua news agency; published July 24, 2017)
A Chinese naval fleet arrived on Sunday at Piraeus port for a four-day friendly visit to Greece, conveying a message of friendship and cooperation.

Missile destroyer Changchun, missile frigate Jingzhou and supply vessel Chaohu docked at Piraeus, Greece's largest port, receiving a warm welcome by Greek and Chinese officials, and more than 1,000 Chinese living in Greece, as the Philharmonic band of the Municipality of Piraeus performed.

"I want to welcome you and your ships in the port of Piraeus. The recent relationship between our countries is in a very high-level due to commercial and cultural cooperation and we are looking forward to be better," Commodore Georgios Agrafiotis, Commander of the Naval Command of Aegean, said during the welcome ceremony, as the crowd was waving Greek and Chinese national flags.

"The Naval Task Group 150 of the Chinese People's Liberation Army departed from Shanghai on April 23 and during the mission we will conduct maritime training and goodwill visits to Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania," said Rear Admiral Shen Hao, Commander of the Chinese navy fleet, while addressing the event.

The Chinese officer expressed confidence that the good will port call in Greece will help further advance bilateral cooperation, receiving the warm applause of the crowd.

The Escort Task Groups of the Chinese Navy have been offering protection to Greek commercial ships since 2008, while the Greek Navy has helped the Chinese side evacuate overseas Chinese from war-torn areas in recent years, Gao Wenqi, Charge d'Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Greece, noted, delivering a speech during the ceremony.

As this year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Greece, the visit of Task Group 150 will reinforce the friendship between the armed forces and ties between the two countries and peoples, he said, highlighting that Piraeus is a great example of win-in bilateral cooperation in recent years, since Chinese giant COSCO Shipping has taken over the management of Piraeus Container Terminal and Piraeus Port Authority.

"The Piraeus port, which the Task Group 150 is visiting, is a pearl of the Mediterranean, the pride of Greece, the lodestar of China-Greece cooperation, and a place where our joint dreams come true," Gao Wenqi stressed.

"China and Greece are promoting the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line in which Piraeus is a key port. Our two ancient nations, inheritors of illustrious civilizations, are marching hand-in-hand towards their common goal of rejuvenation," the Chinese diplomat added.

Two Greek girls from the Hellenic-Chinese Centre for Entrepreneurship dressed in ancient Greek costumes greeted Rear Admiral Shen Hao with olive branches as a symbol of peace and cooperation, after the impressive performance of martial arts by young students of an Athens Kung Fu Art Shaolin school.

After the ceremony the Greek Navy officers, Chinese embassy officials and overseas Chinese in local communities visited the ships which will depart Piraeus on Wednesday.

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