Portsmouth played host to three Chinese naval ships to strengthen ties between our two nations. Defence correspondent Sam Bannister reports with pictures from LA(Phot) Gary Weatherston, LA(Phot) Keith Morgan, LA(Phot) Nicky Wilson and LA(Phot) Guy Pool.
They were the first Chinese sailors to visit the city in more than seven years.
And Portsmouth played an excellent host as three warships from China arrived here for a week-long visit.
Video shows the Chinese naval ships’ arrival in Portsmouth earlier this month
They were treated to a tour of the Royal Navy’s newest warship, HMS Duncan, and all of the historic vessels Portsmouth has on show, including HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose.
There were dinners and dancing, plus the chance for British sailors to meet their Chinese counterparts and swap tales.
The purpose of the visit was to strengthen military understanding between the UK and China.
Fifty crew members from the assault ship Chang Bai Shan were shown around Portsmouth-based HMS Duncan before the ships departed last week.
The visitors were shown inside the hangar, bridge and weapon decks and were told about the basic roles and capabilities of the 7,350-tonne air defence vessel.
Her commanding officer, Commander Rich Atkinson, said: ‘We were delighted to welcome our guests on board.
‘Engagement and dialogue between our two militaries is useful given that we share similar global challenges including counter-piracy, preventing conflict, protecting our citizens overseas and supporting UN peacekeeping efforts.’
Chang Bai Shan arrived in Portsmouth last week with the frigate Yun Cheng and replenishment ship Chaohu.
They have just completed counter piracy escort operations in the Gulf of Aden.
During the five-day visit senior officers from both navies discussed maritime topics including recent counter-piracy operations across the Indian Ocean.
Rear-Admiral Zhang Chuansha, commander of the task group, said: ‘Our visit to the UK is a good opportunity to enhance our understanding of each other.
‘It’s a great opportunity for our sailors to get exposure to local people and our counterparts in the British navy.
‘All sailors share something in common. We share the same sea, the same international obligations such as dealing with piracy.’
The next stop for the Chinese ships is the port of Kiel in Germany. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said: ‘This visit gives a flavour of the partnership between China and the UK.
‘It is also good for the British public to understand the Chinese military and what it is able to do.
‘It has been seven years since our last visit.
‘The world has changed and so has the reach of the Chinese navy.
‘We’ve carried out 48 missions in the Gulf region in that time and helped to protect 6,000 vessels.
‘So we have a lot to talk about – there is a lot for the two navies to share.
‘This visit will go a long way to strengthening our relationship.’
Chinese guests flocked to the city during the week to see the ships arriving and departing.
Commodore Jeremy Rigby, Portsmouth naval base commander, said: ‘The visit was a really good way for us to talk, navy to navy, with like-minded sailors.’