BEIJING — Chinese and U.S. naval vessels have conducted their first joint anti-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden, officials said Sept. 18, citing the drill as a sign of improving security ties.
The five-hour drill featured a Chinese missile frigate, the Yi Yang, and American guided missile destroyer the USS Winston S. Churchill, the U.S. Navy and Chinese state media said.
In the exercise, the U.S. destroyer played the part of a vessel taken over by pirates, while a joint American-Chinese team boarded the ship to “rescue” the crew, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet said in a statement.
“Executing the boarding side-by-side as a combined U.S.-Chinese team, the team successfully searched the vessel and provided assistance to the role-playing mariners,” it said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on a three-day visit to China, praised the joint exercise as evidence that military ties between the two powers were advancing.
“We noted that the United States and China just this week participated in a very successful counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden,” Panetta said in a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie.
“These exercises enhance the abilities of our navies to confront the common threat of piracy,” he said.
Beijing lauded the drill as being “conducive to increasing mutual understanding and trust between the two navies,” state news agency Xinhua said.
China’s deployment to the coast of piracy-plagued Somalia in 2008 marked the first time in modern history that Beijing has sent its forces well beyond its territorial waters.
Panetta announced Sept. 18 that the U.S. Navy has invited China to take part in a major U.S.-led naval exercise, known as Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), in 2014.