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Sino-French Maritime Exercise Comprehensive

The joint maritime exercises between China and France scheduled for Tuesday will be the most comprehensive military exercises between China and foreign countries so far, the captain of a Chinese warship said in Qingdao Monday.

The French naval fleet arrived in Qingdao, a port city in east China's Shandong Province, Friday morning for the joint exercises with the North China Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. The two sides will conduct the first naval drills in the area.

Ju Xinchun, captain of the Chinese guided missile destroyer Harbin, said the drills will involve refueling exercises at sea.

The French fleet with 322 crew members aboard includes anti-submarine-warfare destroyer Latouche-Treville and a light frigate Commandant Birot.

Ju Xinchun, 39, said the French navy, founded in the 17th century, had a long history and strong combat effectiveness. "The French navy is experienced and we are eager to learn from them their experience in coordination skills in joint military exercises," said Ju.

"We have had only four days for detailed consultations on preparation work since their arrival," said Ju. "Until now, the two sides have cooperated very well with two formal consultations as well as several contacts between different groups."

The one-day exercise includes ship and shipboard helicopter tactic maneuvers, refueling exercises at sea, communication and search and rescue exercise, sources from the North China Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy said.

Ju said all detailed consultations between the two sides are directly between the warships, officers and soldiers, which is in line with the international practice.

The guided missile destroyer Harbin is an advanced destroyer made in China and began operation in 1994. It has visited eight countries during its four friendly visits to foreign countries.

(Xinhua News Agency March 16, 2004)

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