Chinese navy visits Cuba, amid Havana-Washington thaw

Chinese Navy ships Type 054A (NATO codenome: Jiankai II) frigate 548 Yiyang (L) and replenishment ship 886 Qiandaohu moor at the port of Havana on November 10, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

Havana (AFP) - A Chinese naval flotilla arrived in Cuba Tuesday to bolster close military ties between the two Communist-ruled allies, its commander Wang Jianxun said.

"This is the first time a (Chinese) military flotilla has come to the island," Wang said at the Port of Havana.

And it is really "a chance to strengthen ties between the navies and armed forces of both countries."

Cuba and China "share ideals and a shared independent development path aimed at building socialism," he said in a report in Cuban official media. The visit had not been announced earlier in state media.

Three vessels took part in the flotilla, but did not discharge artillery fire as is often the case with visiting flotillas.

China is a key political ally of Cuba, and its number-two trade partner after Venezuela. Beijing also is one of the few sources of credit available to cash-strapped Havana.

The visit comes as former Cold War foes the United States and Cuba work on normalizing ties. The neighbors across the Florida Straits renewed their diplomatic relations in July after a 50-year standoff.

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