The ever-growing reach of China’s navy was demonstrated recently when two of its warships sailed through the Turkish Straits and into the Black Sea for the first time. The two ships, the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao and Jiangkai II–class frigateYantai (pictured here), entered the Black Sea on 31 July. They then veered off on their own separate visits, with the Qingdaotraveling to Sevastopol, Ukraine, while the Yantai made her own port calls at Costanta, Romania, and Varna, Bulgaria, before the vessels sailed back through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles in early August. Both ships, along with the replenishment oiler Weishanhu , had recently completed anti-piracy patrols
Photo courtesy Cem D. Yaylali
in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Although the destroyer and frigate entered the Black Sea, the larger 23,000-ton Weishanhu remained docked at Istanbul. Once the ships departed the area, they made a brief stop at Haifa, Israel, before returning home to Chinese waters.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday rebuking Syria’s dowing of a Turkish RF-4 [NATO photo]
On Friday Syria shot down a Turkish F-4. A statement the Syrian government released that night said: “Our air defenses confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane.”
A short time later, Syria allegedly engaged a second Turkish aircraft. According to a statement on Monday from Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, a Turkish CN-235 searching for the wreckage of the RF-4 came under fire by Syrian forces who ceased when warned by the Turkish military. As the wreckage of the craft was reportedly found Sunday, it is unclear when the plane came under fire or what shot at it.
Turkish and Syrian planes and coast guard vessels continue their search as the F-4’s crew has yet to be found. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said Friday, “Regarding our pilots, we do not have any information, but at the moment four of our gunboats and some Syrian gunboats are carrying out a joint search there.”
How Turkey responds is of great interest to the region. Turkey invoked Article 4 of the NATO treaty, calling on member nations to assemble in Brussels for a meeting of the North Atlantic Council earlier today at which Turkish officials presented their version of events. As expected, the outcome was one of condemnation but no immediate military response. Following the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed solidarity with Turkey and condemned the shoot-down “in the strongest terms.” NATO also released a statement with unanimous endorsement calling the incident, “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.”