27 September 2010

RAN Joins China in Live Firing Naval Exercise

27 September 2010

HMAS Warramunga FFG-152 (photo : Australian DoD)

China enlists Australian Navy in charm offensive

China has chosen the Royal Australian Navy as its partner for what are being called the most intense war games with a foreign power in the nation's history.
China has never allowed Western media onto one of its navy ships during live target practice before but times are changing.

The ABC was granted exclusive access aboard Chinese Navy frigate Luoyang as it took part in the exercises on the Yellow Sea off northern China.

Luoyang's 80 millimetre guns opened up on a target almost three kilometres away. Smoke filled the Yellow Sea air after each firing.

Also firing was the Australian frigate HMAS Waramanga, which is also taking part in the joint exercises.

Chinese lieutenant commander Tony Cao is happy with the result.

Louyang FFG-527 (photo : China Defense Mashup)

"We had very good cooperation today," he said.

"I think that shows our relationship."

After criticism it is too secretive about its military build-up, China is on a charm offensive and has chosen Australia as a partner to show the world its intentions are peaceful.

One reason for the change could be military tension between China and the United States.

China is unhappy about US arms sales to Taiwan and Commander Cao says Americans are refused invitations to take part in joint naval exercises.

"If the United States stops selling the weapons to Taiwan and stopping spying us with the air or the surface, I think that will do good to the communication and to the cooperation between our two countries," he said.

Commander Bruce Legge, the Australian frigate's commanding officer, says even though Australia is a close ally of the United States, tensions between Washington and Beijing are not any of his business.

"Well I don't even think it's necessary to have the US here because it allows Australia to just concentrate on working together," he said.

"You know we're working very closely with China, we certainly don't need America to do that and you can see just how forward we're moving with this."

Last year Canberra named China as Australia's biggest strategic threat, prompting an angry response from the Chinese foreign ministry.

But as an Australian Seahawk helicopter performs a daring winch manoeuvre hovering above the flight deck of the Chinese frigate, it seems that dispute is ancient history.

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