QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – Warships from India, Australia and several other nations arrived in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao on Sunday to attend a naval parade, part of a goodwill visit as China extends the hand of friendship, despite regional tensions and suspicions.
A Chinese navy personnel stands guard as the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD 117) arrives at Qingdao Port for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in Qingdao, China April 21, 2019. REUTERS / Jason Lee
China will mark 70 years since the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy, where it will show off new warships including nuclear submarines and destroyers at a major review in the waters off Qingdao
China says there are 13 countries in total – and the PLA is best placed to welcome them, with diplomatic sources with direct knowledge.
India, which has been at odds with China over their disputed land border and Beijing's support for India's regional rival Pakistan, has sent stealth guided missile destroyer "INS Kolkata" to take part along with a supply ship.
"We bring to you one of the best ships that we have made. "It's the pride of the nation and the navy, and we are very happy to be here," Captain Aditya Hara told reporters on the docks after leaving the ship in Qingdao.
A source familiar with the situation told Reuters that "Kolkata" had sailed through the Taiwan Strait to get to Qingdao, a sensitive waterway that separates China from self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as a sacred Chinese territory.
"We headed for a direct route and we are very happy that we were facilitated by the PLA Navy and they ensured that we had a safe passage to Qingdao," Hara said, when asked if they had flown through the Taiwan Strait.
Australia, a close U.S. ally, has sent the HMAS Melbourne guided-missile to the Qingdao, although officials have declined to make the captain available for interview.
China and Australia have spurred over Australian suspicions of Chinese interference in the country's policy and Australia's ban on China's Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. from supplying equipment for its planned 5G broadband network.
Japan has also sent a destroyer to Qingdao, in the first visit of a Japanese navy ship to China since 2011, according to Japanese media.
Relations between China and Japan, the world's second and third largest economies, have been plagued by a long-running territorial dispute over a cluster of East China Sea islets and suspicion in China about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to amend Japan's pacifist constitution
But they have been seeking to improve relations more recently, with Abe visiting Beijing in October, when both countries pledged to forge closer ties and signed a wide range of agreements including a $ 30 billion swap agreement.
The other countries taking part include China's close friend Russia, and three countries that have sparred with China over competing claims in the disputed South China Sea: Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Pakistan, a very close Chinese ally, has not provided the list of countries, which sends ships to the parade.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Christopher Cushing