China celebrates 60th anniversary of navy
QINGDAO, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) kicked off a grand maritime ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of its navy at 6 p.m. Monday off the coast of the eastern city of Qingdao. PLA Navy Commander Admiral Wu Shengli announced the start of the four-day festivities, set to conclude on April 23, which would include seminars, a sampan race and a fleet review. The celebration, with a theme of "peaceful ocean," will see the participation of 21 foreign naval vessels from 14 countries, including the United States and Russia, and delegations from 29 countries. Many senior national naval officials, including the chief of naval operations of the United States and the Russian Navy's commander-in-chief, will also attend. In his address at the opening ceremony, Wu first expressed gratitude on behalf of the PLA Navy to naval officials and soldiers from across the world for their participation in China's celebration. He hailed the operations of navy ships, from a dozen countries, in the waters off the Somali coast that aimed to protect the safety of respective commercial ships, calling the move a successful cooperation among navies of various countries. He noted, maintaining a peaceful and harmonious ocean has always been an obligation of naval forces around the world. "I wish the festivities here will serve as an opportunity for different countries to obtain a better picture of China's naval forces and increase exchanges and mutual understanding for more cooperation between countries to safeguard oceanic safety," Wu said. Representatives from the visiting countries and naval ships, the PLA and Qingdao city joined the opening ceremony, which ended with a show of fireworks. All the naval vessels held a rendezvous in Qingdao about one hour before the celebration started. Sailing ship ARM Cuauhtemoc of the Mexican Navy, destroyer Badrand supply ship Nasr of the Pakistan Navy arrived on Saturday evening. They were the first three to rendezvous here for the fleet review. The LP-X Dokdo amphibious assault ship from the Republic of Korea, the most advanced vessel with the largest tonnage among the assembled vessels, was the last to arrive. Qingdao, a co-host city of the Beijing Olympics and venue for the Games' sailing events, stepped up security for the four-day celebration. Combat divers were dispatched in the ports where the naval vessels berthed. The PLA Navy was founded on April 23, 1949 with nine warships and 17 boats obtained after a unit of the Kuomintang's second coastal defense fleet defected to the PLA. Through six decades of development, a modern force for maritime operations has taken shape, consisting of combined arms with both nuclear and conventional means of operations. A total of 21 visiting naval vessels from 14 countries took part in the review with the rhythms of "March of the Review," a Chinese melody usually played for formal occasions. All the foreign ships flew their flags at full-staff. The foreign vessels lined up in a row in the order of combatant ships, landing craft, auxiliary ships and a sailing ship for training. In each category, the order of placement was based on tonnages. President Hu, aboard the PLA Navy destroyer Shijiazhuang, first passed by the Russian cruiser CG-011 Varyag, a 11,500-tonne vessel which was commissioned in 1989 and carries 529 crew. Known for its sophisticated missile, torpedo and artillery systems, the Slava-class cruiser is the flagship of the Russian Navy's Pacific Fleet.