USS Benfold first US warship to visit China since South China Sea ruling
USS Benfold, a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, arrived in Qingdao, the home of the Chinese Navy’s North Sea Fleet, on August 8.
By entering the Chinese Navy base, Benfold became the first U.S. warship to visit China since last month’s ruling in the South China Sea arbitration case brought before the Hague court by the Philippines.
China reacted angrily to the ruling which said that official Beijing had no legal footing to claim almost all of the disputed territory under the so-called nine-dash line. China has restated on numerous occasions that it would never accept the international court ruling and has conducted a number of military drills in the disputed region.
The U.S. Navy said Benfold’s visit advanced maritime cooperation and encouraged a positive naval relationship with the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) North Sea Fleet.
“Sailors are sailors at the end of the day, be it in the East or in the West; we all face the same challenges at sea. These similarities unite us. I am sure that by the end of the week we will see that American Sailors and Chinese sailors are as close as any other sailors out on the high seas,” said Cmdr. Justin Harts, Benfold’s commanding officer.
As part of the visit to Qingdao, Benfold will host a reception and ship visits, as well as attend those hosted by the PLA(N).
Benfold, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and a member of Destroyer Squadron 15, is currently on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.