ASPEN, Colo., July 26, 2014 —
China’s naval modernization program is moving at a rapid pace, the chief of U.S. naval operations said here yesterday.
Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert spoke at the Aspen Security Forum on his way home from meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Adm. Wu Shengli.
China is participating in this year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercises. “They're doing about average compared to all the other fleets, which is interesting,” Greenert said. “… Average is good -- it's good enough; it's not what they thought. It's a little difficult, multinational exercises.”
China expressed interest in continuing to develop the military-to-military relationship through exercises and personnel exchanges, he said.
The two leaders discussed the need for developing maritime protocols for their navies and civilian mariners, the admiral said.
“It was a good visit, it was frank, it was respectful,” he said.
Greenert said he was the first U.S. service member to be allowed aboard China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, something he wasn’t sure would happen on this trip. He also met with some of the carrier’s crew.
The Liaoning is a refitted Russian aircraft carrier.
“We went, not stem-to-stern, but throughout a lot of it,” Greenert said. “Then we went to a submarine. Then we went to a destroyer -- about a 2,000-ton ... almost the length of a football field -- and then on one of their patrol craft.”
The Chinese aircraft carrier is “very Russian,” Greenert said.
“That means it's big, it's heavy and it's onerous,” he explained.
But, the admiral said, the Chinese have completely upgraded their carrier. They stripped out all the old Russian-style equipment “and everything they put in is very modern and Chinese.”
The carrier is still being worked on at a shipyard in Dalian, in northeast China, he said.
China will build another carrier like the Liaoning relatively soon, Greenert said.
“It'll look just like this one, they said -- ski ramp, about the same tonnage, 65,000-70,000 tons. … They're moving on a pace that is extraordinary,” the admiral said.
Greenert said Wu told him the ship is the basis for research and development of what will be a blue-water, aircraft-carrier-focused navy.
"I think that he may be wanting to do this on his watch,” he said. “He's got about four-and-a-half more years to ... have this carrier out to sea like we do, with a series of destroyers around it and the ability to launch and recover aircraft in the tens and maybe twenties. But I'm not overly concerned right now, they have a lot of work to do."
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)