The Chinese Navy docked in Cuba Tuesday night for a five-day trip celebrating the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The three-ship fleet is the first of its kind to visit Cuba, and arrives from Florida, where Chinese and American vessels conducted joint military exercises.

Despite close ties with Cuba — China is its second-largest trading partner after Venezuela — the Chinese Navy had never visited the island, or the east coast of the United States. Both nations heralded the visit as a natural activity for allies to undertake. The visit, said fleet commander Wang Jianxun, is “a chance to strengthen ties between the navies and armed forces of both countries,” as the two nations “share ideals and a shared independent development path aimed at building socialism.”

The Agence France-Presse notes that the trip out of Florida to Cuba had not been advertised in either nation’s state media prior to it occurring. State propaganda outlets for both nations applauded their militaries and welcomed China’s presence in the Atlantic.

Granma, the Cuban communist state newspaper, quoted Wang as saying that the meeting was a signal to the world that “together, we will play a more active role in the defense of global peace.” He also described the two nations as “brothers, friends, and partners.” This echoes columnists in Chinese state media outlets arguing that the visit to the United States, in particular, was “indicative of China’s establishment of a world-class navy that can patrol international waters on international missions and contribute to the global commons and international law.”

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