ZHANJIANG, People's Republic of China –
Senior navy leaders from the U.S. 7th Fleet and People's Liberation Army Navy PLA(N) met for a professional exchange of ideas in a variety of technical and operational topics on board the Chinese ship Mount Jinggang at PLA(N) South Sea Fleet Headquarters April 21.
The U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) is in Zhanjiang to build a stronger relationship through joint exercises and fleet engagements as well as periodic meetings of senior staff members known as "staff talks" with China's South Sea Fleet.
"This is the first time we've been able to bring the Blue Ridge into Zhanjiang and have the 7th Fleet commander meet with the South Sea Fleet commander to discuss our operations in a shared domain," said Capt. Ronald Oswald, theater security cooperation officer for U.S. 7th Fleet. "It was great because not only were the commanders talking, but the staffs were able to sit down and talk one-on-one on a variety of topics."
The talks involved professional dialogue between the two staffs and allowed leaders to discuss goals for future collaboration and common concerns and challenges the two navies share. The intent of the staff talks is to increase theater security cooperation through the facilitation of bilateral and multilateral military exchanges and dialogue. It provides a meeting place for partnered navies' subject matter experts to meet and discuss different aspects of their mission objectives and their responsibilities.
"The talks went tremendously well. Our Chinese counterparts were open, honest and candid, and they talked about challenges and weaknesses they have, areas that they want to improve and a lot of the stuff they showed us is very similar to the things we are doing in our Navy," said Oswald. "Going forward, these interactions with the different PLA Navy fleets mean we have the potential to operate more closely and safely with our Chinese counterparts and potentially avoid any misunderstandings. It was insightful to sit down and look at the commonalities as opposed to the differences."
The U.S. 7th Fleet and the PLA(N) are collaborating and discussing common issues related to humanitarian assistance and disaster response, search and rescue (SAR), manpower and training, and normalizing procedures for professional encounters at sea. The two navies already practice interoperability through exercises such as anti-piracy operations, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), Codes for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), SAR exercises, and disaster relief in the Philippines.
Blue Ridge and embarked staff are in Zhanjiang conducting a port visit to build naval partnerships with China's South Sea Fleet to ensure peace and prosperity for the entire region.