POSTED: 12:12 p.m. HST, Sep 6, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 12:23 p.m. HST, Sep 6, 2013
Three Chinese navy ships pulled into Pearl Harbor this morning as the United States and China step up military-to-military contacts and exercises.
The visiting ships include the Qingdao, a Luhu-class destroyer; Linyi, a Jiangkai-class frigate; and Hongzehu, a Fuqing-class fleet oiler.
It was the first such port visit in seven years, and more than 100 Chinese from the local community enthusiastically greeted the ships with banners, small American and Chinese flags, and shouts of "Welcome!" in Chinese.
"I was told this is a big deal because the past few years the relationship between the U.S. and China is kind of tense, so this is kind of an icebreaker," said Kenneth Lee, a Honolulu resident with the Hawaii Mainland Chinese Overseas Association who was on the pier.
Hula and lion dancers performed for military and civilian dignitaries from both countries.
As the capstone to the port visit, all three ships will participate in a one-day search-and-rescue drill Monday with the cruiser USS Lake Erie "that will highlight the ability of the two nations to cooperate and communicate at sea," the Navy said.
The last port visit by People's Liberation Army Navy ships to Pearl Harbor (by the Qingdao and Hongzehu) was exactly seven years ago to the day on Sept. 6, 2006.
"This port visit is part of the U.S. Navy's ongoing effort to maximize opportunities for developing relationships with foreign navies as a tool to build trust, encourage multilateral cooperation, enhance transparency, and avoid miscalculation in the Pacific," the Navy said in a release.