As China’s navy ex­pands, Xi urges closer naval ties

The Tribune (SLO) - - Local -

QING­DAO, CHINA

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping urged closer ties among the world’s navies on Tues­day, amid ten­sions over China’s rapid ex­pan­sion of its naval forces and force­ful as­ser­tions of ter­ri­to­rial claims in the South China Sea.

Xi’s re­marks came in an ad­dress to for­eign naval of­fi­cers at­tend­ing a fleet re­view mark­ing the 70th an­niver­sary of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Navy, an event Bei­jing is us­ing to show­case its grow­ing abil­ity to ex­ert force far from its shores.

Fol­low­ing his speech, Xi boarded the de­stroyer Xin­ing, one of China’s most modern and ca­pa­ble war­ships, at the north­ern port of Qing­dao to pre­side at the re­view, which also is to fea­ture China’s sole com­mis­sioned air­craft car­rier, nu­mer­ous other sur­face ships and sub­marines and a dis­play of naval avi­a­tion.

Tues­day’s naval re­view in­cluded 32 Chi­nese ves­sels and 39 air­craft, along with 18 ves­sels from 13 for­eign coun­tries friendly to China. One no­table ab­sence was the United States, which did not send a ves­sel, de­spite the ar­rival last week of the 7th Fleet flag­ship, the USS Blue Ridge, in the semi­au­tonomous ter­ri­tory of Hong Kong.

State broad­caster CCTV showed Xi stand­ing on deck in a heavy coat in thick fog as var­i­ous ships and sub­marines sailed by, their of­fi­cers and crew mem­bers wear­ing for­mal uni­forms and giv­ing salutes.

China’s navy will “con­tinue to strengthen ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion with for­eign navies, ac­tively shoul­der its in­ter­na­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, safe­guard the se­cu­rity of in­ter­na­tional wa­ter­ways and pro­vide more pub­lic goods for mar­itime se­cu­rity,” Xi was quoted as say­ing by the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency.

“Hold­ing high the ban­ner of win-win co­op­er­a­tion, the Chi­nese mil­i­tary is com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing a se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment fea­tur­ing equal­ity, mu­tual trust, fair­ness and jus­tice, joint par­tic­i­pa­tion and shared ben­e­fits,” said Xi, who also heads China’s armed forces.

Such rhetoric con­trasts starkly with China’s ag­gres­sive ap­proach to its ter­ri­to­rial claims in the South China Sea, where it has built mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions on man-made is­lands in the cru­cial wa­ters, which are also claimed by sev­eral other na­tions.

China claims vir­tu­ally the en­tire South China Sea, along with rights to its fish­eries and seabed re­sources.

While Bei­jing says it up­holds the rights to free nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight in the area, its forces have been ac­cused of chal­leng­ing or op­er­at­ing dan­ger­ously around mil­i­tary ves­sels and air­craft from other coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, as well as ha­rass­ing fish­ing ves­sels from the Philip­pines and oth­ers.

The Philip­pines ear­lier this month is­sued a rare pub­lic re­buke of large num­bers of Chi­nese ves­sels near is­lands and islets oc­cu­pied by the Philip­pines in the dis­puted wa­ters, say­ing the Chi­nese pres­ence was il­le­gal.

MARK SCHIEFELBEIN AP

A nu­clear sub­ma­rine of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) Navy par­tic­i­pates in a naval pa­rade Tues­day in the sea near Qing­dao, China.

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