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China-Russia relations: When warships construct friendships

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- Dmitriy Kovaroy feels that a warship's top task is to accomplish military missions, but it is also a vehicle for better understanding between people and countries.

“We want to let the public and our counterparts know more about the ship's history, its status quo and its future,” he said. Kovaroy is a lieutenant working on Russia's Pacific Fleet Slava-class guided missile cruiser, Varyag.

On Saturday, the Varyag and Chinese missile destroyer Shijiazhuang were open to the public at the Port of Golden Horn Bay, Vladivostok. They were among 18 vessels from China and Russia taking part in the “Joint Sea-2013” exercises, scheduled from July 5 to 12 in Peter the Great Bay near Vladivostok.

The Shijiazhuang, commissioned in March 2007, is deployed by the North Sea Fleet based at Qingdao, and the Varyag, dubbed the “aircraft carrier killer,” was commissioned in 1989 and re-entered service in 2008 after an overhaul.

In 2009, the cruiser took part in a parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the Chinese navy.

Zhang Pingjun, deputy political commissar of the Chinese fleet, said it is a tradition for Chinese warships to hold open house when visiting a country, as “such activity serves as an efficient platform for navies and people from different countries to know more about each other in a short time.”

Wang Lijun, 51, feels the same. He was part of a 25-member group which had driven six hours from Jixi in Northeastern China's Heilongjiang province to Vladivostok, just for this.

The retired solider said he believed the open house on board both the Shijiazhuang and Varyag would promote better understanding between the two armies.

Wang, who once visited a small warship in 1982 in Dalian port, Liaoning province, said he was impressed by the changes in the Chinese navy over the past decades.

“The equipment here is much more advanced, and as a civilian now, I feel more reassured after seeing how strong our country and military have become,” Wang says.

Roman Kostenko, a worker at a local beer factory, said his first trip to a Chinese warship has shown him the high-level of Sino-Russian relations.

“I believe relations between us would keep improving in the future,” he said.

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Chinese sailors and navy officers stand in formation on missile destroyer Shijiazhuang, bottom, as it approaches a port for a joint exercise with Russian navy in Vladivostok, Russia on Friday, July 5. Chinese missile destroyers Wuhan, top left, Shenyang, top center, and Russia's Slava class missile cruiser Varyag 011, top right, are docked at the port. (AP)

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