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Navy fleet visit heart of US forces in the Pacific
( 2003-11-02 09:12) (People's Daily)

Very few Chinese have ever been to Guam. Ordinary people even have no idea about its location, except the knowledge that Guam is an important pivot on the defense line of the US army stationed in the Pacific. Media reports about Guam in recent years usually cause uneasiness to the Chinese, but now, this mysterious place is opened for the first time to Chinese warships.

"Shenzhen" missile destroyer and a "Qinghai Lake" comprehensive supply ship set out for a three-nation tour for the United States, Singapore, and Brunei. [newsphoto.com.cn]

At the invitation of the US Navy, a naval fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), composed of a "Shenzhen" missile destroyer and a "Qinghai Lake" comprehensive supply ship, paid a four-day visit to US military base of Guam in the Pacific, from October 22 to 25. Just one month before the event, two US warships visited the Zhanjiang Port, an important base of the Chinese navy.

It is reported that the US side attached great importance to the Chinese fleet's visit, and a grand welcoming ceremony was held at the Apra Harbor by both US navy commanders of troops stationed in Japan and Mariana. To secure a smooth, successful military activity, the US side checked carefully every detail of the receiving work, a US officer said.

Upon the arrival of "Shenzhen" and "Qinghai Lake", the Guam TV station made detailed reports at the earliest possible time, calling the event a "historic moment". Reuters also ran a comment immediately, saying the first Guam visit by Chinese fleet indicating the continuous warming of military ties between the two big countries in the Pacific.

"Military fortress" filled with friendliness

Labeled as a US "military fortress" in the Asia-Pacific region, Guam has long been shrouded in mystery. From a perspective of military geography, it is located at the southernmost tip of the Mariana Islands of the West Pacific, a port of best location between Southeast Asia and Hawaii. Among the 16 important global channels upon which the United States declared its intention to control, four are held by Guam. That's why the little island houses the command post of the Pacific Command of the US army as well as the headquarters of the navy force stationed in Mariana.

The Apra Harbor at which the Chinese fleet docked this time is a tightly guarded naval force base. It is divided into two harbors, inner and outer, embracing altogether 21 ports. The inner harbor alone can accommodate 50-odd warships. Besides, the Harbor can also hold 1,000-strong arsenals and oil depots, capable of storing nuclear arms, conventional weapons and 160,000 tons of oil. It is the base camp of the US 15th submarine unit, which incorporated two nuclear-powered attack submarines not long ago, and is expecting a third one next year. It is reported that there will be seven submarines of this type in Guam by 2015, and 11 by 2025. Furthermore, a large dredging project will soon be launched in the Harbor to enable it to dock aircraft carriers, the US navy disclosed. The Anderson Air Force Base, which is famous in the world, has 64 AGM-86 air launched cruise missiles and 24 strategic bombers deployed. The Agana Airport, a major base of reconnaissance and anti-submarine missions of the US army in the West Pacific, can hold 180 aircraft and now house two reconnaissance squadrons and one anti-submarine squadron, responsible for cruise missions on sea areas around Okinawa and Taiwan.

The Chinese fleet "entered the heart of US army in the Pacific", many US military experts said. While opinions shortly before the visit said the "ferocious" Guam base had taken China as its target---the US army there were controlling important international channels there, which conflicted with China's strategic interests; missiles and submarines deployed there were aiming at Beijing; the intelligence system at the island, running at full speed, never moved its eye off China...the little island, long been a place alien to Chinese people since the US military had been unwilling, and dared not, to let China in, is now suddenly filled with friendliness by extending voluntary invitation.

Chinese, US defense ministers come together

All analysts noticed that the Chinese naval fleet sailed into Guam on the currents of warming Sino-US relations. Even lowest-ranking diplomats of the two countries know that military exchange is like a "wind vane" most capable of reflecting changes in the relations between the two nations. Generally, military ties are the first to be stopped when bilateral relations take an unexpected turn, and the last to be resumed when the relations are improved. Recently, the frequent military exchanges indicate that the Sino-US relations have flown out of the low tide and entered into a normal track, showing a rosy developing trend. Just as the US navy put it in a statement, this time's visit settled down a stable relationship not only between the two navies, but also the two nations.

The China-US military exchanges turned an important page on October 24, when the Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, at the invitation of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, arrived in New York for a visit. Before his arrival, Cao visited the Pacific Command of the US army in Hawaii, and West Point Military Academy on October 25.

Cao, who is also vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission (CMC) and a state councilor, is the first Chinese defense minister visiting the Pentagon since the last visit by former Defense Minister Chi Haotian in December, 1996. Rumsfeld was later quoted by Washington Times as saying that inviting Cao to visit the Pentagon is part of US government efforts to strengthen ties with China. Speaking from the US side, he called the military exchanges between the United States and China as proper, sensible and mutually beneficial.

Many Western analysts pointed out that the Pentagon visit by Chinese defense minister not only benefited the two armies, but would also exert a positive influence on the ties between the two countries. Associated Press (AP) reported that seeing the good developing trend, the Bush Administration has urged Rumsfeld-led Pentagon to realize normalization of military ties between China and America as early as possible.

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