Two Chinese Navy Vessels Visit Vanuatu

PM, officials and local Chinese community welcome officers and crew

By Dan McGarry

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 27, 2017) – Members of the Chinese community joined the Prime Minister and Deputy PM in welcoming the officers and crew of two People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships on Saturday.

The two 054A class Frigates drifted into a placid and sunny Vila bay accompanied by the harbour master’s pilot boat, and berthed side by side at the main wharf. A third ship, a larger supply carrier, is standing off outside the harbour.

Waiting on the quay was a crowd of nearly two hundred people, mostly of Chinese descent, holding colourful banners, and waving the flags of both Vanuatu and China.

A VMF honour guard was standing by, along with the VMF marching band, which played a welcome to the flotilla, commanded by a rear admiral. Officers of the flotilla were welcomed at the gangway by Police Commissioner Albert Nalpini, who escorted them to a pavilion where Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman, who is also minister for tourism and trade, was standing by to welcome them.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai arrived minutes later, and welcomed the senior PLAN officers. Together they accepted the salute of the colour guard, and inspected the troops gathered there.

There are 29 Jiangkai I & II class vessels in the Chinese navy, either in active service or nearing readiness. These 134 metre-long frigates each displace 4000 tonnes and have a complement of 165 officers and sailors. They have anti-aircraft, anti-ship and long-distance offensive and defensive capabilities, including cruise missiles, surface-to-air rockets, and torpedoes, as well as close-in defensive weapons including seven-barrel gatling guns and deck-based cannon.

They can carry and deploy naval helicopters as well.

These escort frigates have seen deployment in anti-pirate activities off the Horn of Africa, and have been used to evacuate Chinese nationals from violent global hot-spots such as Yemen.

This is the largest Chinese naval contingent to visit Vanuatu. Ambassador Liu Quan told the Daily Post that such flotillas made regular port calls in nearby nations, but seldom paused to visit Vanuatu. In honour of the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations, he said, he made a special request for the force to plot a course to Port Vila before continuing on their way.

The ships will remain in Port Vila until tomorrow. Tonight a reception will be held for local dignitaries and invited guests on the deck of the Frigate Hengyang.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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