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Malaysia, China look to strengthen ties with warships’ visit to Penang

GEORGE TOWN — In a historic act, three Chinese warships will call at a Penang port next week amid warming ties between Beijing and Putrajaya.

GEORGE TOWN — In a historic act, three Chinese warships will call at a Penang port next week amid warming ties between Beijing and Putrajaya.

China’s Consul-General to Penang, Wu Jun, who paid a courtesy visit to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at the state government complex yesterday, said this would be the first time the warships called at a Malaysian port.

“This is a very historic and proud moment for both China and Malaysia as it also signifies a good relationship between our naval forces,” he said in a press conference.

Mr Wu said the warships will call at North Butterworth Container Terminal next Friday. It will be open for the public to visit on May 14.

The three warships that will be arriving at the Butterworth port are destroyer CNS Changchun Type 052C, frigate CNS Jingzhou Type 054A, and replenishment ship CNS Chaohu Type 903.

“The frigate coming here will have about 600 crew members and they are on an Asian tour of 20 countries,” said Mr Wu, adding that the visit has been planned since last year as part of China’s efforts to promote better international relations with countries in the region.

Prime Minister Najib Razak visited China in November last year and both sides signed 14 bilateral agreements worth RM144 billion (S$46.6 billion).

Among the deals inked was one to buy four Chinese littoral mission ships, Putrajaya’s first significant defence deal with Beijing.

Another key deal signed will see China build and help finance an east-coast railway link in Malaysia that is estimated to cost RM55 billion.

Prior to Penang, the three Chinese warships visited Davao, the Philippines. Earlier this week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited the warships docked in his hometown, highlighting fast-warming relations despite competing claims in the South China Sea.

“(The ship is) very impressive. It’s clean and even all carpeted inside. It’s like a hotel actually,” he said after he toured the ship with Deputy Commander Rear Admiral Shen Hao of East China Sea Fleet of the People Liberation Army Navy and China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.

It was the first Chinese navy port call in the Philippines since 2010.

The vessels are scheduled to stop in Cambodia and Vietnam, before making their way to Malaysia. AGENCIES

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