PLA Navy frigates Yangzhou and Huanggang make a port call at London's Canary Wharf at the start of a five-day goodwill visit. (Photo/chinadaily.com.cn)
After visiting the Belgian port of Antwerp and making a stop in Denmark, naval frigates from the 26th Escort Task Group of the People's Liberation Army Navy berthed at London's Canary Wharf on Monday at the start of a five-day goodwill visit to the United Kingdom.
The visit, which Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to the UK, described as history-making in the realm of China-Britain military relations, is expected to offer the British public and its military the chance to see first-hand China's growing military strength and its unremitting contribution to world peace.
Senior Captain Wang Zhongcai, who is also the fleet commander, said the ships will be open to the British public so people can get a better understanding of China and its Navy. Wang said there will also be a number of deck receptions for special guests.
The Chinese and British navies will also hold a joint humanitarian rescue symposium on Thursday.
Liu said the visit will strengthen China-UK bilateral ties and relations between the two navies and consolidate strategic mutual trust between both nations.
"This year is the 45 anniversary of the ambassadorial-level diplomatic relationship between China and the UK, and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army," Liu said. "This visit by the Chinese Navy fleet will leave its mark in the history of our military-to-military exchanges and state-to-state relations."
He added that the visit can also be seen as reaffirming China's commitment to world peace.
"The Chinese military has been an active contributor to UN peacekeeping missions, it has made significant contributions to world peace and stability, and has proven to the world with its actions that China is a strong force for world peace," Liu said.
The Chinese Navy has dispatched 26 escort task force convoys since 2008, consisting of more than 70 ships that have escorted convoys in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia. They have guaranteed the safe passage of more than 6,300 international ships.
And in more general terms, the Chinese military had participated in at least 24 UN peacekeeping missions worldwide as of June 2017, dispatching more than 31,000 peacekeepers. Thirteen of them lost their lives in the line of duty.
The latest visit is the fourth to the UK by the Chinese Navy since 2001. British Royal Navy vessels have paid eight visits to China.
Rear Admiral Alex Burton, Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces, said such bilateral military exchanges reflect the lengthy, strong and close relationship between the nations.
"We have both confronted common challenges: counter-piracy, natural disasters and peacekeeping. The need to work in partnership, as we have done for so many years, to find common solutions to these challenges, is way more important today," he said.
The 26th Escort Task Group departed from the naval port of Zhoushan, in East China's Zhejiang province, in April.
It will make a port call in France after its visit to the British capital.
The 26th Escort Task Group is part of China's ongoing effort to safeguard international nautical routes. It comprises the missile-carrying frigates Huanggang and Yangzhou and the comprehensive supply ship Gaoyouhu, as well as ship-borne helicopters.
According to previous media reports, it is the first time that three Chinese naval vessels have conducted convoy duties together in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia.
Because of the nation's deepening reforms, the PLA has embraced a more open and proactive attitude toward interacting with the public wherever missions take place.
Naval Task Group 150 of the People's Liberation Army Navy started a four-day stop at the Greek port of Piraeus on July 23, during which people could take a close look at the vessels and interact with members of the Chinese Navy.
The group departed from Shanghai on April 23 and conducted maritime training. The group also made goodwill visits to Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania, said Rear Admiral Shen Hao, Commander of the Chinese Navy Fleet.