ZHANJIANG, China (NNS) -- Senior military officials from U.S. Pacific Fleet, Sailors of USS Juneau (LPD 10) and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) joined the efforts of strengthening relations with the Chinese military and local government after Juneau's arrival here Nov. 15.
More than 900 Marines and Sailors embarked aboard Juneau, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock ship of the U.S. Navy's Task Force 76, arrived here for a three-day port visit, and to participate in a joint search-and-rescue exercise (SAREX) between U.S. Navy and Marines and their Chinese counterparts.
Upon Juneau's arrival, an officer's call was held at the South Sea Fleet Headquarters here, where Adm. Gary Roughead, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and China's South Sea Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Gu Wengen, met briefly for an informal discussion.
During the meeting, both Roughead and Wengen discussed naval infrastructure matters, the possibility of conducting submarine rescue exercises and the overall future relations between both countries' navies. Roughead also explained to the Chinese the importance of Juneau's arrival.
"I believe by having Juneau here gives our Sailors and Marines an opportunity to learn about your country and will bring our navies closer together," said Roughead. "By working together, we can add to the security, stability and prosperity of the region."
Wengen also agreed that fostering better relations is important for both countries' militaries and that the relationship can affect its people.
"This exercise is really beneficial, not only for our armed forces, but it is a need between the relationships of our two countries," said Wengen. "I hope we can expand these activities so we can build more mutual trust."
Local government officials from Zhanjiang also welcomed Juneau and its crew.
"The people of Zhanjiang cherish your visit," said Zhanjiang's Deputy Mayor, Chen Ya De. "I would like to wish the military service members from the Juneau good health and a happy life."
Marine Lt. Col. Marcus Annibale, officer in charge of more than 500 Marines from the 31st MEU embarked aboard Juneau, commented during the meeting with the deputy mayor.
"The Marines are looking forward to this port visit, but more importantly they feel a sense of mission, being the first Marine Corps unit since World War II to visit mainland China. They will have a tremendous opportunity to interact with the local people, as well as both the Chinese sailors and marines," said Annibale, who is also an AV-8B Harrier pilot assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311. "The Marines will also attend semi-formal receptions and give static display tours of their equipment to guests aboard USS Juneau. We hope for an endstate of increased understanding and respect for each other's service."
Later that evening, Chinese officials hosted a welcome reception for more than 100 Marines and Sailors at a naval lodging facility where Roughhead and Wengen exchanged gifts as a symbol of appreciation and to a continued relationship between both countries.
The reception closed a day of military visits by commanders and staff, and allowed them the opportunity to establish relationships before the scheduled SAREX.
For related news, visit the Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.