22 October 2011

Chinese Navy Hospital Ship Visits Cuba, Caribbean

Jeff Franks,Chinese Navy Hospital Ship Visits Cuba, Caribbean,” Reuters, 22 October 2011.

HAVANA (Reuters) – A Chinese navy hospital ship called the Peace Ark sailed on Friday into Havana Bay in Cuba, reflecting good relations between the communist allies and China’s expanding global presence.

The 580-foot (178 meters) ship was met by Cuban naval officials in a low-profile arrival ceremony that international media were not invited to attend.

Chinese sailors lined the decks of the white vessel, which has red crosses painted on its side, as it entered the historic bay of the Cuban capital and was guided by tugboats into port. It flew Cuban and Chinese flags from its mast.

The trip is China’s first operational naval mission to the Caribbean Sea, according to the blog of U.S. Naval War College professor Andrew Erickson.

According to Cuban news agency Prensa Latina and Chinese news reports, the Peace Ark will stay in Cuba until Wednesday, then sail to Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica in a 100-day voyage known as “Harmonious Mission 2011.” …

The Peace Ark was launched four years ago but is making only its second trip abroad after treating 15,500 people last year on a voyage to the Gulf of Aden and five African and Asian countries. …

For the significance of Peace Ark’s (and the PLA Navy’s) first mission to the Caribbean, currently underway, see “PLAN Hospital Ship ‘Peace Ark’ (‘和平方舟’号医院船) Embarks on 3-Month Navy Medical Service Mission in Caribbean.”

For background on Peace Ark and its first mission overseas, see “Chinese Hospital Ship ‘Peace Ark’ Sets Sail for Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Africa to Provide Medical Assistance, Exchange.”

For the first public report that Peace Ark would be deployed to the Middle East and Africa in 2010, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “Oversea Trumps Overland: China’s Oil Supply Future is Maritime,” China Signpost 洞察中国™, No. 1 (26 May 2010).

For more details on Beijing’s dispatching of the frigate Xuzhou to escort ships transporting Chinese citizens from Libya, see:

Gabe Collins and Andrew S. Erickson, “Implications of China’s Military Evacuation of Citizens from Libya,” Jamestown China Brief, 11.4 (10 March 2011): 8-10.

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “Missile Frigate Xuzhou Transits Suez Canal, to Arrive off Libya ~Wednesday 2 March: China’s first operational deployment to Mediterranean addresses Libya’s evolving security situation,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 26 (27 February 2011).

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “China Dispatches Warship to Protect Libya Evacuation Mission: Marks the PRC’s first use of frontline military assets to protect an evacuation mission,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 25 (24 February 2011).

For analysis of China’s ongoing counter-piracy deployment in the Gulf of Aden, see Andrew S. Erickson, “Chinese Sea Power in Action: the Counter-Piracy Mission in the Gulf of Aden and Beyond,” in Roy Kamphausen, David Lai, and Andrew Scobell, eds., The PLA at Home and Abroad: Assessing the Operational Capabilities of China’s Military (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College and National Bureau of Asian Research, July 2010), 295-376.

For analysis and policy recommendations from American and Chinese experts concerning potential areas for Sino-American martime cooperation, see Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Nan Li, eds., China, the United States, and 21st Century Sea Power: Defining a Maritime Security Partnership (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010).