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Military

26 November 2002

U.S. Navy Warship Visits Mainland Chinese Port

(First such port call since EP-3 incident in April 2001) (700)
Following is the text of a November 25 article, reprinted by
permission from Stars and Stripes:
(begin text)
Navy port calls first since EP-3 dispute
Pacific Stars & Stripes, 11/25/2002
By Joseph Giordono
For the first time since a U.S. Navy EP-3 and a Chinese fighter jet
collided in April 2001, an American warship is making a port visit to
mainland China.
The USS Paul F. Foster, a Spruance-class destroyer based in Everett,
Wash., pulled into the eastern port of Qingdao early Sunday morning
with full honors. Flying both the U.S. Navy and People's Republic of
China ensigns, the ship performed a pass-in-review of Chinese army
troops on the pier.
"Our role on the engagement side, with the port visits and bilateral
exercises, is just as important as our wartime role," Cmdr. Chuck
Nygaard, Foster's commanding officer, said in a phone interview with
Stars and Stripes.
"I've had a chance to talk with the crew to make sure they understand
the power of engagement, and we are all very excited to be able to do
that."
Military relations between the two nations had virtually ceased after
the 2001 incident; the Chinese pilot was presumed dead and 24U.S.
crewmembers were held for 11 days after the EP-3 made an emergency
landing on China's Hainan Island.
The fledgling Bush administration called a halt in military relations
after the incident. Although U.S. warships have continued visiting
Hong Kong, still largely an autonomous port after reverting from
British to Chinese control, the Foster's visit to Qingdao is the first
to a mainland port since March 2001.
On Friday, a U.S. battle group led by the aircraft carrier USS
Constellation arrived in Hong Kong for a four-day port call on its way
to the Middle East.
The Hong Kong Security Bureau said the Yokosuka, Japan-based carrier
USS Kitty Hawk and two other warships will visit later this week.
The port calls were approved by China's central government, which
oversees Hong Kong's foreign and military affairs.
In the past year, both sides have worked to mend the rift. President
Bush and then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin met in Texas last month,
emerging with a series of military exchanges. Those include the U.S.
hosting two dozen Chinese generals next month and a planned trip to
China by the chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Senior-level defense talks will also be held Dec. 9 in Washington at a
level not seen since 2000.
While in Qingdao, Nygaard will meet with the Fleet Admiral of the
People's Liberation Army (Navy) and host about 45 Chinese military and
political officials on the ship.
The Foster's crew is expected to take part in a series of official and
unofficial events. They'll have basketball games, host Chinese sailors
on the ship and take tours of Beijing and the Great Wall of China,
where a couple of Foster sailors will re-enlist.
"The Chinese have asked for a ping-pong tournament, but we're still
looking around the ship for anyone that can play," joked Nygaard.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Michael Brown, a Battle Force 7th Fleet
spokesman, the ship pulled away early from ANNUALEX, which involves
U.S. and Japanese warships and aircraft operating in the Philippine
Sea.
Outrunning a bit of bad weather, the Foster steamed through the Yellow
Sea and into Qingdao. During their visit, Nygaard said, the ship will
fly "up and over" friendship lights and full dress flags, ensuring a
colorful presence.
And while the sailors are in port, they will wear dress blue uniforms.
"Usually, when we pull into a port, force protection dictates that we
don't wear any uniforms," Nygaard said. "But the threat level is very
low here and we are being taken care of by our hosts. It'll be a great
opportunity for the sailors to be in their dress blues and to show
people what a U.S. Navy sailor is about."
The Paul F. Foster has a crew of about 340. Recently, it also
participated in an exercise with the Indian navy, marking a thaw in
military relations with that country as well.
Seventh Fleet ships are used to being diplomatic icebreakers. After
U.S. bombs mistakenly struck the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during
the 1999 Yugoslavia air campaign, a similar freeze in military
relations was thawed by a visit of the Yokosuka-based USS
Chancellorsville to Qingdao.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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