Monday, April 27, 2009

China navy's 60th anniversary

China's navy will mark its 60th anniversary with a ceremony starting Thursday dubbed the "naval Olympics" that will display the country's nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, state media said.
The four-day event involves 21 vessels from 14 countries in the eastern city of Qingdao and includes a fleet review to be held Thursday -- the fourth one in China since 1949, the official China Daily said Tuesday.

In an interview with the state-run Xinhua news agency, Ding Yiping, deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army's navy, announced the display of nuclear submarines was to take place "for the first time in history."

But after the navy's commander-in-chief said last week a new generation of warships and aircraft with much longer-range capabilities was being developed, Ding sought to allay other countries' potential concerns about the submarines.

"It is not a secret that China has nuclear submarines, which are key to safeguarding our country's national security," he said, adding that China had fewer of the vessels than the United States or Russia.

China has always stressed that its military build-up, watched with a wary eye by nations such as the United States, does not pose a threat to other countries.

Ding called the gathering a "naval Olympics," as a variety of foreign ships would participate in the fleet review, from warships to auxiliary vessels, according to Xinhua.

Among the foreign nations to have sent naval vessels to the celebrations are the United States, Russia, France, Brazil, Mexico, India, South Korea, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

According to Ding, the navy and local public security departments had worked out a security plan modelled on that of the Beijing Olympics to ensure the safety of the ships.

The ceremony marks the founding of the People's Liberation Army's navy on April 23, 1949, before the People's Republic of China was formally established in October of that year.

The navy was formed when a unit of the Kuomintang's coastal defence fleet defected to the rival communists, bringing with it nine warships and 17 other boats, according to Xinhua.

Kuomintang nationalist forces had been locked in a civil war with the communists, who eventually won and came to power on October 1, 1949.

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