The five-hour drill involved a Chinese missile frigate and a US guided missile destroyer, China’s defence ministry said, according to Xinhua news agency.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on a three-day visit to China, praised the joint exercise as evidence that military ties between the two powers were advancing.
“We noted that the United States and China just this week participated in a very successful counter-piracy exercise in the Gulf of Aden,” Panetta said in a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie.
“These exercises enhance the abilities of our navies to confront the common threat of piracy,” he said.
Beijing lauded the drill as being “conducive to increasing mutual understanding and trust between the two navies and deepening bilateral cooperation in non-conventional security fields,” Xinhua said.
China’s deployment to the coast of piracy-plagued Somalia starting in 2008 has marked the first time in modern history that Beijing has sent its forces well beyond its territorial waters.
China’s historic competitors including Japan and the United States regularly take part in anti-piracy operations.
The United States and China have only held limited exercises in the past focused on search and rescue operations.
Earlier this month, US and Chinese coast guards conducted their first full-scale rescue drill, which took place off Hawaii.
Panetta announced Tuesday that the US Navy has invited China to take part in a major US-led naval exercise, known as RIMPAC, in 2014.
China and the United States have also periodically held technical-level military talks, though Beijing has often suspended the discussions over US arms sales to Taiwan and other issues.
The United States has strongly advocated for more frequent contacts between military leaders, arguing that regular communication will help reduce the likelihood of incidents at sea.
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