Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy frigate Weifang arrives in Cape Town, South Africa on Sunday local time for joint naval drills with Russia and South Africa. Photo: screenshot from China Central Television
The Chinese navy is participating in its first-ever joint naval drills with Russia and South Africa in southern African waters, a move that will boost the countries' capability to face maritime security threats, secure sea lanes and contribute to world peace, Chinese experts said on Monday.
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy guided-missile frigate Weifang arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on Sunday afternoon local time, where the warship was warmly welcomed by South African naval staff and local Chinese residents, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.
An opening ceremony for the drills was held on Monday, Russian news agency Tass reported on Monday.
Russia sent the missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov, sea tanker Vyazma and SB-406 rescue tugboat, and South Africa deployed the frigate Amatola and replenishment tanker Drakensberg for the exercise.
"I believe the main purpose for the drills is to enhance the understanding and friendship between the three countries' navies, and to boost our maritime cooperation so we can better deal with security threats from the sea, maintain stability in maritime security and safeguard world peace," Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Monday.
The Weifang is with China's 33rd fleet that escorts civilian ships in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, CCTV said, noting that this is the frigate's third time undertaking such an escort mission.
Navies of the three participating countries all conduct escort missions in the Gulf of Aden, and the drills this time will also contribute to the security of international sea lanes, Zhang said.
Zhang expects the drills to involve subjects like rescuing hijacked ships and maritime search and rescues.
The drills will run until November 30, Tass said.
China's ship, the Weifang, was a part of the mission that saw 455 Chinese and foreign citizens evacuated from Yemen in March 2015, when the country saw air-strikes that forced other countries to evacuate their citizens, according to publicly available reports.