US, Chinese sailors participate in anti-piracy exercise

Chinese sailors and U.S. sailors with a search-and-seizure team from the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason get final instructions before participating in a small-arms exercise aboard the Chinese destroyer Harbin in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Rob Aylward/ Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

By HENDRICK SIMOES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 25, 2013

MANAMA, Bahrain — In what could potentially be a small-scale rehearsal for the large scale RIMPAC 2014 exercise, U.S. and Chinese naval forces conducted a joint weekend counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden.

During the two-day exercise, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the Chinese destroyer Harbin conducted a series of events that included members of both navies taking part in onboard search-and-seizure drills, live-fire proficiency and aviation operations, the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet said.

One of the exercises involved a combined U.S. and Chinese team boarding a Chinese oiler that was role-playing as a pirated vessel. The scenario included hostages and a mock medical emergency.

The joint exercise comes in the wake of last week’s meeting at the Pentagon between Gen. Chang Wanquan, Chinese minister of national defense, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, where both spoke on the importance of building a military-to-military relationship between the two nations that are often politically at odds. At the meeting, both agreed to enhance cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism, anti-piracy and peacekeeping.

China is expected to participate in the U.S.-led RIMPAC 2014 , the largest international maritime exercise that takes place biennially in the Pacific. The first bilateral counter-piracy exercise conducted between the U.S. and Chinese navies occurred near the Horn of Africa with USS Winston S. Churchill and the Chinese frigate Yi Yang, in September 2012, according to the U.S. Navy.

U.S. officials say piracy off the Horn of Africa remains a threat despite “significant progress” stemming from a 2009 United Nations Security Council resolution that joined 80 countries in the effort to combat piracy in the area. Since 2011 there has been a 90 percent reduction in the number of hostage-takings by pirates, and the last successful pirate attack on a merchant vessel occurred in May 2012, according to the State Department.

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Lt. j.g. Jeffrey Fasoli, gunnery officer aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, demonstrates how to operate an M4 carbine rifle to Chinese sailors aboard the Chinese destroyer Harbin prior to a combined small-arms exercise in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Rob Aylward/ Courtesy of the U.S. Navy