BEIJING, -- China and Iran are preparing to launch a joint military exercise, reports the Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.
Warships from the People's Liberation Army have docked at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas ahead of the historic drills, the first time Chinese vessels have ventured into the Persian Gulf.
Admiral Amir Hossein Azad, commander of Iran's First Naval Zone, said on Sept. 20 that the five-day military exercise would entail joint rescue operations and testing the technical readiness of the respective fleets of both sides. The exercises are aimed at "establishing peace, stability, tranquility, and multilateral and mutual cooperation" between the two countries, he added.
The admiral's sentiments were reciprocated by Huang Xijiang, deputy chief of staff of the PLA's East Sea Fleet, who led the Changchun Type 052C destroyer and the Changzhou Type 054A frigate in Bandar Abbas on Saturday morning, when they were greeted by Iranian military officials and representatives from the Chinese embassy in Iran.
Huang said in his arrival speech that the PLA Navy was visiting for "peace and friendship," adding that he hopes the experience can help both sides improve their mutual learning and understanding.
Both the Chinese and Iranian navy will open up their vessels for inspections by the other side during the cultural exchange, which will also reportedly include friendly soccer, table tennis and tug-of-war matches.
The exact timeline of the imminent drills currently remain unclear, though they will take place just days after the Iranian navy announced that they had foiled a pirate attack on Chinese container ship in the Gulf of Aden.
PLA Navy Changchun (150) Type 052C destroyer arrives at the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, Sept. 20.