Chinese navy hospital ship visits Cuba, Caribbean

HAVANA, (Reuters) – A Chinese navy hospital ship  called the Peace Ark sailed yesterday into Havana Bay in Cuba,  reflecting good relations between the communist allies and  China’s expanding global presence.

The 580-foot (178 meters) ship was met by Cuban naval  officials in a low-profile arrival ceremony that international  media were not invited to attend.

Chinese sailors lined the decks of the white vessel, which  has red crosses painted on its side, as it entered the historic  bay of the Cuban capital and was guided by tugboats into port.  It flew Cuban and Chinese flags from its mast.

The trip is China’s first operational naval mission to the  Caribbean Sea, according to the blog of U.S. Naval War College  professor Andrew Erickson.

According to Cuban news agency Prensa Latina and Chinese  news reports, the Peace Ark will stay in Cuba until Wednesday,  then sail to Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica in a  100-day voyage known as “Harmonious Mission 2011.”

Prensa Latina said there would be scientific exchanges  during the ship’s stay in Havana, but did not specify if  medical treatment would be given to locals, as is often the  case when hospital ships stop in foreign ports of call.

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