SHANGHAI, China — Thousands of Chinese lined Shanghai's waterfront today as two British warships began a five-day call that could pave the way for a similar visit by U.S. Navy vessels.
The destroyer Manchester and frigate Amazon tied up at Shanghai's Yangtze River Pier as a 40-piece Chinese military band played the Royal Navy Anthem and other martial tunes.
Several thousand Chinese civilians lined Shanghai's historic waterfront to watch the foreign warships steam into port, while nearby merchant vessels sounded their horns in welcome.
A heavy rain began falling just as the two ships, which together carry 500 officers and crew, were secured at the pier.
Could Help End Deadlock
Western diplomats said the port call, the first by British warships since 1980, could help end a deadlock between China and the United States that has blocked a similar visit by American vessels originally planned for the spring of 1985.
Washington suspended last year's planned U.S. call by three Navy destroyers after Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang said the vessels would not be carrying nuclear arms. Hu's statement appeared to indicate that Washington had assured Peking that the vessels would not carry nuclear weapons only months after it refused to give similar assurances to New Zealand.
U.S. officials immediately denied Hu's comments, and reiterated the U.S. policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear arms aboard ships.
No Date Mentioned
U.S. officials have indicated that talks on the China visit are continuing, but no date has been mentioned.
Since Britain has an identical policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons aboard its ships, its agreement with Peking could help remove the main obstacle to the U.S. call, diplomats said.
"The negotiations are still open for a U.S. visit, and a successful British visit could pave the way for a U.S. visit at a later date," a Western diplomat said.