Chinese navy fleet docks at Istanbul port
Mustafa Bakacak – ISTANBUL
REUTERS photoChinese navy destroyer Changchun, the flagship of long-term overseas drilling, and two other warships docked at Istanbul’s port on July 18, as part of Beijing’s plan to tour them around the world in 180 days.
Chinese Military Attaché to Ankara Zheng Qinli, Consul General to Istanbul Qian Bo and a group of Chinese citizens in the city welcomed the fleet headed by Admiral Miao Hua.
Changchun, the modern destroyer that carries 48 long-range HHQ-9 missiles, Jingzhou, a new Chinese frigate, and Chaohu, a logistics support ship, docked at Istanbul’s Sarayburnu port under heavy rain.
Dancers wearing dragon costumes and a drum band staged a welcome ceremony for the fleet that consists of 600 marines including 40 women.
Admiral Miao said the tour covers 20 countries and will last six months.
The fleet will visit ports in Asia, Africa and Europe.
This is a fourth Chinese friendly navy visit to Turkey, according to officials.
In a demonstration of the Chinese navy’s expanding global reach, the country’s latest-generation warships conducted live-firing drills in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month while en route to joint exercises with the Russian navy.
The destroyer Hefei, frigate Yuncheng and support ship Luomahu took part in the drills on July 10 involving the ship’s deck guns and small arms, the ministry said in a notice on its website.
China’s navy is the world’s second-largest behind the U.S. and is increasingly operating in the Mediterranean, aided by the construction of a naval logistics base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.
While China says the base is needed to support peacekeeping, anti-piracy and other missions in the region, Beijing’s rivalry with the U.S. is considered a key driving force behind the country’s military expansion.
On July 11, China’s sole operating aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, departed Hong Kong after a visit aimed at inspiring patriotism among citizens of the former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule 20 years ago.