U.S. Warship Docks in China, First Visit Since 1989
Mar. 22, 1995
QINGDAO, China (AP) _ The USS Bunker Hill sailed in from the Yellow Sea today for the first visit by an American warship to China since the 1989 army crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.
The ship arrived out of the fog, welcomed by a Chinese military band playing ``The Star-Spangled Banner'' and Chinese sailors standing in rows across the decks of destroyers flying signal flags.
U.S.-China military relations were cut off after the Chinese army killed hundreds of demonstrators on June 4, 1989. High-level talks resumed in 1993, and Defense Secretary William Perry visited China last fall.
Rear Adm. Bernard J. Smith, commander of the Navy's Carrier Group Five, called the Bunker Hill's port call a friendship visit and insisted there was nothing political about it.
``I would say we regard the Chinese navy as a friendly navy,'' Smith said. But the United States knows little about how the Chinese navy operates, and hopes to learn more during the Bunker Hill's visit.
The visit was the third since Communist China was founded in 1949. In 1986, U.S warships visited Qingdao, a base for nuclear submarines, and in 1989 the navy made a port call at Shanghai, a day before Premier Li Peng declared martial law in Beijing as a precursor to the military crackdown on the democracy movement.
The last visit by a Chinese navy ship to the United States was in April 1989 in Honolulu.
Chinese sailors and officers were taken on tours of the 567-foot Bunker Hill and shown the Ticonderoga-class cruiser's missile-launching system, gun mounts, combat information center and pilot house.
Capt. Zhang Zhaozhong accepted an invitation to sit in the captain's chair and joked, in English, ``Let's go.''
His men were allowed to take pictures and videotapes, but the Chinese did not allow U.S. seamen to photograph inside the Chinese destroyers and submarines they toured.
The Americans had open access to Qingdao during their four-day visit, with no more U.S. Navy rules than for a port call to a non-Communist country, said Cmdr. Stephen Burnett, a Navy spokesman.
The city about 325 miles southeast of Beijing is a tourist spot known for its beaches and 19th century German architecture dating from Germany's 1897-1914 occupation. It also makes the widely exported Tsingtao beer, which uses an alternative spelling of the city's name.