For the first time, a Chinese naval ship has traveled to Venezuela, following the visit by President Nicolas Maduro to Beijing earlier this month, where he had asked China's leadership for economic support following the collapse of its economy, said Channel NewsAsia.
The naval medical ship, known as the "Peace Ark," had moored on Saturday at the port of La Guaira near the Venezuelan capital.
#PICTURES | Hospital ship “Peace Ark” arrived in the port of La Guaira to consolidate cooperation and friendship ties between 🇨🇳 & 🇻🇪 as well as medical and academic exchange with this sisterly Asian Power#BuquesDePaz pic.twitter.com/dDKld3Ft5R— Foreign Affairs 🇻🇪 (@MFAVenezuela) September 22, 2018
Maduro, whose socialist government is facing a severe backlash in Venezuela as the economy continues to collapse with the fifth year of depression and hyperinflation, visited Beijing earlier this month. China's government promised to aid the country but did not make public if any new loans were issued.
In the last decade, China has provided Venezuela will billions of dollars in credit, in particular, the oil-for-loan program that helped China secure cheap energy supplies for its fast pace economy while also supporting an anti-Washington movement in Latin America.
According to Maduro, the "Peace Ark" will be moored in Venezuela for a little more than a week. During the visit, Chinese and Venezuelan officials will host several meetings and inspect medical facilities in the country.
Hospital ship "Ark of Peace" (He Ping Fang Zhoude) of the People's Republic of China up to the Port of La Guaira, Vargas state.#RumboAlMillon #BuquesDePaz https://t.co/FtcFGq3HeW #Venezuela 🇻🇪 🇨🇳 pic.twitter.com/vM6HXfsCE2— Cuerpo Combatiente 2K (@CCPDVSAGASANACO) September 23, 2018
The "Peace Ark" had received warm greetings from Venezuela’s top military officials.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, who welcomed the hospital ship, told the sailors: "This is how you undertake diplomacy in the world… with concrete actions of cooperation and not stoking the false voices of those who beat the drum of war."
He later tweeted the visit was a manifestation of "true diplomacy of peace" and both countries "share a common destiny."
Atinada demostración de la verdadera diplomacia de paz e integración mundial; nuestros pueblos comparten un destino común enlazados por un vínculo: La búsqueda de la perfección social. Bienvenida a la Patria de Bolívar, tripulación del “Arca de la Paz” pic.twitter.com/PkmaU86B0w— Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) September 22, 2018
President Maduro also tweeted that the hospital ship was the start of "a combined integrated strategic operation between the two countries."
Recibimos en nuestra amada Patria al Buque Hospital de la Armada China, el “Arca de la Paz”, con el objetivo de iniciar una Operación Estratégica Combinada Integral entre ambos países. pic.twitter.com/4WUjCTQgHY— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) September 22, 2018
RT points out that the Chinese goodwill mission overlapped a similar mission by the US. The Pentagon announced August it would send its 250-bed hospital ship, the USNS 'Comfort,' to neighboring Colombia.
While the US military maintained the Comfort’s mission has nothing to do with politics, the Trump administration has occasionally slammed the Maduro regime. “We’re not sending soldiers; we’re sending doctors. And it’s an effort to deal with the human cost of Maduro, and his increasingly isolated regime,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said.
Earlier this month, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida suggested a US military intervention in the country.
In an interview with Univision in Miami, Rubio, a vocal opponent of Maduro’s government, said he would not rule the military option out.
“For months and years, I wanted the solution in Venezuela to be a non-military and peaceful solution, simply to restore democracy,” Rubio said. “I believe that the Armed Forces of the United States are only used in the event of a threat to national security. I believe that there is a very strong argument that can be made at this time that Venezuela and the Maduro regime has become a threat to the region and even to the United States."
Perhaps China's hospital ship currently moored in Venezuela is a direct message to Washington that invasion of the Latin American country is not a viable option.