By AUDREY McAVOY
PEARL HARBOR, Oahu — Three Chinese ships with hundreds of sailors arrived in Hawaii on Friday for a rare visit to participate in a search-and-rescue exercise with the U.S. Navy.
The guided missile destroyer Qingdao, a frigate and a supply ship were welcomed with performances by lion dancers and a children’s hula group.
The ships carrying a helicopter and 680 officers and sailors will join a search-and-rescue drill on Monday with the USS Lake Erie in waters off Waikiki and Diamond Head.
Chinese ships last visited the U.S. in 2006, when the Qingdao and the Hongzehu stopped in Pearl Harbor and San Diego for communications drills and search and rescue exercises off those coasts. The two nations last held a joint drill in 2012 during an anti-piracy exercise off Somalia.
China’s military has said the drills build on a June commitment by President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to strengthen ties.
The Navy said the visit is part of its ongoing effort to develop relationships with foreign navies to build trust, encourage cooperation, enhance transparency and avoid miscalculation.
Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, said the two navies are showing their commitment to a stable world by working together and sharing aloha for the next several days.
“We are linked with you together in history, and we will be linked together in the future,” Williams said about China.
Rear Adm. Wei Gang, chief of staff, North Sea Fleet and head of the delegation, said there’s been steady progress in U.S.-China relations in recent years.
“This time, I, together with all the officers and the men of the task group, entrusted by our Chinese government and the people, sailed all the way across the broad Pacific and brought here to our American friends the friendly feelings of the Chinese people and the People’s Liberation Army,” Wei said through an interpreter.