By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 23) - Top officers of the two largest navies in the Pacific - the United States and China - met yesterday after two Chinese naval vessels docked on Guam.

The Chinese naval destroyer Shenzhen and its accompanying supply ship Quinghai Hu were escorted by the USS Chancellorsville into Apra Harbor yesterday for a goodwill visit that has taken months of preparations, according to U.S. Navy officials.

Nearly 550 Chinese soldiers arrived on the ships, commanded by Rear Adm. Xue Tianpei, deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army Navy South Sea Fleet.

The sailors were welcomed to the island by Rear Admiral Frederic Ruehe, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan.

The visit is intended to build a stronger relationship between the two forces, hopefully preventing any misunderstanding at sea, according to Navy public affairs officer Cdmr. Michael Brown.

Xue, through a translator, said that Guam was chosen as the site of the visit in part because of its proximity to China and other operations that the ships are carrying out. Xue said the ships will head next to Singapore and Brunei.

The visit, according to Ruehe, reciprocates a visit made by U.S. Navy ships to a Chinese port last month.

The visit is the first to U.S. territory for the South Sea Fleet since September 2000, when they visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Seattle, Washington, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Thurraya Kent.

It is also the first visit by the South Sea Fleet since the 2001 incident in which American and Chinese military planes collided, leading to a standoff between the two countries over the 24 American passengers. The incident was resolved after the United States government said it was "very sorry" for the death of the Chinese pilot and for the U.S. plane making an emergency landing without China's permission, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Brown said that the PLA Navy North Sea Fleet made visits to American ports last year.

The ships' sailors will be touring the island, as well as engaging in some friendly competitions with American soldiers, including a tug-of-war contest, a soccer game and a basketball game.

About 50 Guam residents of Chinese heritage, waving both American and Chinese flags, also welcomed the ships to American shores.

Louis Liu, 39, of Tamuning was one of the well-wishers. He said he believes the visit is a gesture of improving relations between the two countries.

"The big countries should have peace, and to me, this is very peaceful," Liu said. "So that's good for both countries."

October 23, 2003

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