Chinese Navy Ship Heads to Singapore for Unprecedented Visit

Posted June 16th, 2011 at 1:30 am (UTC-5)
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China says one of its largest naval patrol ships is on its way to Singapore for an unprecedented port call.

The official Xinhua news agency said Thursday that the two-week visit by the Haixun 31 will mark the first time China has sent a major patrol ship to a foreign country.

The 3,000-ton ship was dispatched Wednesday from southern Guangdong province and is making its way across the South China Sea. That will bring it near areas in which similar Chinese patrol boats were involved in recent incidents that raised tensions with the Philippines and Vietnam.

Xinhua said the Haixun 31 is carrying a Chinese delegate who will hold talks with Singaporean officials on sea rescue, anti-piracy and port management. It said the visit is expected to promote cooperation in maritime affairs and other matters.

Late last month, Vietnam complained that a Chinese patrol ship had severed an exploration cable training from an oil survey ship in waters it claims as its exclusive economic zone. The Philippines has also complained of Chinese patrol boats interfering with oil exploration off its western coast.

China, in each case, insisted the ships were acting appropriately in waters under China's administration.

While the voyage of the Haixun 31 is a first for China, other countries have long used port visits as a way to improve diplomatic relations with other countries.

The USS George Washington, an American aircraft carrier, last year hosted leading Vietnamese political and military personnel during a visit to that country.