Reportage: Turkish Frigate in Town

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Turkish frigate TCG Gedíz has arrived in Hong Kong as part of a four-month voyage to the ‘Far East’. It carries more than just goodwill.


 

On May 16, 2015, a reception was held by Turkish Consul General to Hong Kong Mr Haldun Teknecí aboard frigate TCG Gedíz, which has set sail from the Mediterranean Sea to the Victoria Harbour to strengthen the nation’s ties with the ‘Far East’.

Senior Colonel Fang Yuxin, Chief of Staff of Navy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) Hong Kong Garrison, and Li Yiping, Director-General of the Consular Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office in Hong Kong, were the guests of honour.

Hong Kong was one of the 18 stops in the warship’s four-month voyage to Japan to commemorate the Ottoman frigate Ertuğrul, which was brought down by a typhoon near Japanese waters while taking on a similar mission 125 years ago. TCG Gedíz has embarked on May 18 to Qingdao, the base of China’s North Sea Fleet.

The underlying message is evident – if Ankara is looking for friends in the East, China is an option too significant to ignore. In fact, Turkey was the first NATO member to carry out joint military exercise with the Chinese Air Force. It also offered an air defence system contract to a Chinese company in 2013, which is now on hold after protest from fellow NATO members. In recent years, it has publicly announced its plan to turn to the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) after several ill-fated attempts to join the EU.

What was more intriguing was the timing of the visit – Just one day before TCG Gedíz’s arrival in town, two Chinese frigates passed through the Bosphorus, returning from a Russo-Chinese joint naval exercise in the Black Sea.

Geopolitical considerations aside, Ankara is also eager to enhance its economic cooperation with the Asia-Pacific. In 2014, trade between Turkey and East Asia totaled 50 billion US dollars. China alone constituted more than 20 billion dollars to the sum.

TCG Gedíz carries more than just goodwill. Just like the Ottoman Empire, once the hub of East-West exchange, Turkey is sailing to the Far East for friendship, influence and wealth.