Two US guided-missile ships docked Monday in the port of Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, home of the South China Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy, kicking off their five-day goodwill visit to China.
The ships, with more than 600 crew on board, are the cruiser Cowpens and the frigate Vandegrift.
Hou Yuexi, chief of staff of the South China Sea Fleet, said at the welcoming ceremony that Sept. 22 was a day worth commemorating in the history of exchanges between the Chinese and US navies.
He said, this was the first time for Zhanjiang port to open to foreign vessels since the founding of new China. "The US Navy is the first to be invited to visit Zhanjiang, and this shows we have attached importance to the relations between the Chinese and US navies."
James Kelly, a US major general who is commander of the US ships, said he was very happy with the visit as it was of great importance to the exchanges between China and the United States, especially between the two navies.
He also expressed his sincere thanks.
Hou and Kelly answered questions from over 20 reporters from domestic and foreign media after the ceremony.
During the visit, the US naval staff will participate in various activities with their Chinese counterparts, including visiting warships, holding talks and playing basketball, football and tug-of-war.
(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2003)