NY Times (Sep 21) — Two Chinese warships have docked at Iran’s principal naval port for the first time in history, Iranian admirals told state television on Sunday, adding that both countries would conduct four days of joint naval exercises.
On Sunday, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported that Chinese Navy ships involved in protecting shipping in the Gulf of Aden stopped at an Iranian port on Saturday for a “friendly visit.” One of the vessels was the Changchun, a guided-missile destroyer, the report said.
The Iranian and Chinese Navies were scheduled to start joint exercises on Monday, focusing on rescue missions, Iranian news media reported. China has been expanding the areas where its navy operates, most recently joining the effort to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.
The visit to Bandar Abbas is an example of the growing ties between China and Iran. China is already the principal buyer of Iranian oil, and Iran uses much of the profit to buy Chinese products, deals complicated by the international sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program.
The website of the Chinese Navy reported that this was the first visit to Iran by Chinese naval ships. The report did not mention any joint exercises.
A Chinese fleet commander, Rear Adm. Huang Xinjian, said the visit was intended to “deepen mutual understanding, and to enhance exchanges between our two countries’ navies.”
“I’m sure that this visit will encourage the constant advancement of friendly cooperation between our two countries’ navies,” Admiral Huang added.
His Iranian counterparts said drills would focus on safety at sea and the fight against piracy.