The Dragon Enters the Bear's Den

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Two Chinese naval ships visited the Russian port city of St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland on August 27. This is believed to be the first time that a Chinese warship has visited the one-time Russian capital, which remains the countrys second city and a major port, naval center, and shipbuilding center of Russia.

The Peoples Liberation Armys missile destroyer Guangzhou and the replenishment ship Weishanhu are on an 87-day cruise that is also taking them to ports in Britain, France, and Spain. The two ships are under the command of Vice Admiral Su Zhiqian, the deputy commander of the South Sea Fleet. (The PLA Navy is divided into three fleets -- the North, East, and South Sea Fleets.)

The two ships, expected to travel some 23,000 nautical miles on their cruise, are among Chinas most modern naval units. The cruise apparently has a dual mission -- training for the officers and enlisted men, and demonstrating the increasing naval capabilities of China.

The Guangzhouwas built in China, being completed in 2004. She is a multi-purpose destroyer, with anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-ship weapons. A helicopter is embarked in the ship, which has a full load displacement of 6,500 tons. It is significant that the Guangzhou is a Chinese-built ship and not one of the four Russian-built Sovremennyy-class missile destroyers delivered to China from 1999 to 2006.

The Weishanhu, a 22,000-ton replenishment ship completed in 2005, can transfer fuel, provisions, and munitions while underway to ships alongside or astern. She, too, has a helicopter capability.

-- Norman Polmar

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