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South China Sea: Chinese Naval Training Ship in Vietnam on Goodwill Visit Amid Spratlys Tensions

Dalian Naval Academy ship greeted in Da Nang by local government and military officials as well as Chinese representatives, China’s state media says The Qi Jiguang is on a 40-day tour that will also take in other South China Sea claimants Brunei and the Philippines, according to the Chinese navy

A Chinese naval ship arrived in Vietnam for a goodwill visit on Tuesday, amid continued tensions between the neighbours over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The Qi Jiguang, a training vessel of the Dalian Naval Academy, arrived in Da Nang on Tuesday morning. It was welcomed by local government and military representatives, as well as Chinese diplomats and employees of Chinese enterprises, China’s state media reported.

The officers and sailors on board will carry out two days of goodwill exchanges with local hosts, including onshore visits, receptions and banquets, and friendly sports games. The ship will also host open sessions for the Vietnamese military, the public and Chinese business staff, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The visit comes not long after a stand-off between Chinese and Vietnamese ships near the Vanguard Bank, the westernmost reef in the South China Sea’s resource-rich Spratly Islands claimed by both countries.

The confrontation was triggered by Vietnam’s plans to expand oil drilling operations in the area, according to Chinese social media account South China Sea Wave.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea under its self-declared “nine-dash line”, covering a vast area where Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims. Each claimant now occupies some islands and reefs in the busy waterway, and incidents over fishing rights as well as oil and gas development are frequently reported.

China has in recent decades significantly strengthened its control of the region by building military bases and boosting administrative and law enforcement presence. But it has also tried to deepen trade and investment ties with its Southeast Asian neighbours and prevent conflicts from escalating.

While it routinely sends paramilitary coastguard vessels to tackle high seas confrontations with other regional claimants, it dispatches naval warships to monitor the so-called freedom of navigation operations by “external forces” such as the US Navy.

The Chinese navy also conducted joint maritime drills with the Singaporean navy late last month, and has taken part in regional diplomacy, such as humanitarian aid operations.

The Qi Jiguang, named after a famous Chinese general who defended the east coast against Japanese pirates in the 16th century, has been used in many military diplomatic missions since entering service in 2017. It is not a combat ship and its crew members are mostly cadets from the naval academy.

It set off on May 15 from Dalian, in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, for a 40-day tour of Southeast Asia. Vietnam is its first port of call, with Thailand coming up next. Later stops will include Brunei and the Philippines, according to a statement by the Chinese navy. Both countries are also South China Sea claimants.

“During foreign port calls, [the crew] will visit foreign ships, colleges and training facilities, conduct open days, deck receptions and various cultural and sports activities, to deepen friendship with the people of the countries visited and present a good image of the Chinese navy,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese navy’s Type 052D guided missile destroyer Zhanjiang is in Langkawi, Malaysia, for a defence exhibition where it will be open to the public.

Source: South China Morning Post