|U.S. navy ship arrives in China for int'l fleet review(04/20/09)|
QINGDAO, April 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. navy missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrived here on Sunday afternoon to attend an international fleet review on April 23 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.
The 6,800-tonne USS Fitzgerald, a Japan-based destroyer from the 7th Fleet, arrived at the port city Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province at 3:30 p.m.
It took three days for the ship, equipped with sophisticated Aegis missile defense system, to sail from its home port of Japan' Yokosuka to the Chinese city.
With a crew of 260, the ship is expected to join a U.S. delegation led by Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead to participate in the upcoming celebrations of the PLA Navy's founding anniversary.
Commander Richard Dromerhauser, commanding officer of the naval vessel, said it was a great opportunity to share ideas, saying a face-to-face communication with Chinese counterparts would be "much better than simply reading about them."
"Interaction will benefit us and we will participate and are looking forward to making new friends."
"We can have fantastic cooperation and professional exchanges. When we learn more about each other, it helps us again and the entire Pacific region. Not only the economic prosperity for the region, but also our collective security in the region." he said.
Captain Charlie Williams, Commodore of the U.S. naval task force on board, told Xinhua that the naval celebration and fleet review will be a very significant step for not only China but all of the other participating countries to be transparent to each other.
"It only helps build relationships which are very important to cooperation at sea and to maritime security," he said.
Earlier Sunday, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead said at a press briefing in Beijing that he and the Commander of the 7th Fleet Vice Admiral John Bird would also fly to Qingdao to join the event.
Roughead, who is the highest-ranking U.S. officer to visit China this year, said he believed the military-to-military relationship was important to the broad U.S-China relationship.
Roughead said during his talks with PLA Navy Commander Adm. Wu Shengli on Saturday, they exchanged views on enhancing navy-to-navy cooperation and operations off the coast of Somalia.
Roughead's last China visit was in November 2006 when he served as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Commissioned in October 1995, USS Fitzgerald was one of 15 destroyers and three cruisers which were deployed to counter ballistic missile threats worldwide. She arrived in Yokosuka, Japan in 2004 to join the U.S. 7th Fleet.
USS Fitzgerald was also one of the two U.S. vessels to take part in the second-phase of the first China-U.S. search and rescue exercise in 2006 in the South China Sea.
Previously, landing vessel Garcia D'avila of the Brazilian Navy, carrying a total of 49 soldiers and officers, arrived at Qingdao at 10:00 a.m..
Sailing ship ARM Cuauhtemoc of the Mexican Navy, destroyer Badr and supply ship Nasr of the Pakistan Navy arrived on Saturday evening. They were the first three among a total of 21 foreign naval vessels from 14 countries scheduled to rendezvous here for the fleet review.
So far, 17 foreign naval vessels, including Russian Navy's 11,370-tonne Vayag missile cruiser, have arrived at the Qingdao port.
As the paramount part of the naval celebration, the visiting ships will observe a naval parade of about 30 Chinese warships and attend the international fleet review to be staged in the waters southeast of the city.