Readout of Pacific Fleet commander's meeting with PLA Navy North Sea Fleet commander
QINGDAO, China - Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, visited the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy North Sea Fleet headquarters where he met with fleet commander Vice Adm. Yuan Yubai, Aug. 8. Swift joined Yuan on a tour of the PLA(N) frigate Daqing (FFG 576) the following day.
The meetings occurred during Swift's travel to Qingdao and Beijing for senior leader engagements and coincided with the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold's port visit to Qingdao.
Swift thanked his hosts for their warm hospitality and highlighted the PLA(N)'s participation as one of 26 navies in the recent U.S. Navy-led multilateral Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise held off the coast of Hawai'i and southern California. Swift underscored the importance of the spirit of inclusiveness that is a hallmark of RIMPAC, a unique forum that allows a growing number of navies to set differences aside and train together as maritime professionals. Swift also praised the improvement of the PLA(N), returning for their second RIMPAC, as one of the relatively new participants in the 25th edition of the exercise that began in 1971. One of the areas the PLA(N) trained in during this year's RIMPAC was submarine rescue, included in the exercise for the first time.
Reiterating comments he made when meeting last year with the commander of the PLA (N), Adm. Wu Shengli, Swift emphasized to Yuan the importance of transparency, parity and reciprocity in the effort to improve the relationship between the Pacific Fleet and the PLA(N). Swift remarked that sustained navy-to-navy engagements, including exercises like RIMPAC, port visits by ships like Benfold and professional exchanges like his visit to North Sea Fleet, were essential building blocks toward increasing cooperation and reducing tensions at sea. Swift noted that Qingdao was where the multilateral Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) protocol was signed by regional navies, including the U.S. Navy and PLA(N), during the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium, and that both navies had demonstrated the value of CUES several times in international waters. Swift advocated for the expansion of CUES to include all regional naval forces, including coast guards.
Swift and Yuan also discussed operations at sea. Swift commented that despite any differences in national policies, it is incumbent upon fleet commanders like himself and Yuan to ensure that actions at the tactical level do not have unintended strategic implications.
Yuan later joined Swift aboard Benfold for a visit with the ship's crew and a reception hosted by the ship to highlight the cooperation between the two navies.