By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
The Chinese and U.S. navies for the first time conducted joint search-and-rescue exercises on Nov. 19 off the coast of southern China, near Hainan Island.
The U.S. Navy’s Juneau, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock, participated in the exercise, which included a three-day port visit at Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province. Chinese Navy vessels participating in the exercise included the Luda-class guided missile destroyer No. 165 Zhanjiang and the fuel tanker Dongting Lake.
Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, arrived in China ahead of the exercise on Nov. 13 for a weeklong visit that included meetings with Chinese officials, a courtesy call on the U.S. Embassy and a visit to the USS Juneau at Zhanjiang.
While in Zhanjiang, Roughead met with Vice Adm. Gu Wengen, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’ (PLAN) South Sea Fleet, and gave Gu a tour of the Juneau. “I hope we can expand these activities so we can build more mutual trust,” he said.
Roughead said in a statement: “Through routine dialogue and exercise, our navies can improve the ability to coordinate naval operations in missions such as maritime security, search and rescue, and humanitarian relief.”
The rescue exercise followed a joint U.S.-Chinese communications exercise in September near Hawaii, but it also comes on the heels of recent allegations that a Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific and the arrest of a U.S. citizen in Hawaii for selling stealth secrets to China.
A former Northrop Grumman engineer, Noshir Gowadia, was arraigned in Hawaii on Nov. 9 on charges of spying for China. He could face the death penalty for designing a “low observable cruise missile exhaust system nozzle” for China, according to court documents.
The visit also was overshadowed by reports that a Chinese Song-class diesel attack submarine was observed surfacing after stalking the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier on Oct. 26 near Okinawa.
“We should expect more of this as Chinese naval power grows and they flex their muscles,” said Dan Blumenthal, a resident fellow with the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute. “We should stop pretending these are accidents. The Chinese intend to probe and tell us they are there and watching.”
Blumenthal has served as senior director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the U.S. defense secretary’s Office of International Security Affairs.