[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
China navy set for Somalia mission
Officials say three warships will join growing anti-piracy force in Gulf of Aden.
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2008 06:56 GMT
China has mainly focused on defending the country's coastline [GALLO/GETTY]

Three Chinese warships will leave port later this week to join a growing international anti-piracy force off the coast of Somalia, Chinese officials have said.

Two destroyers and an accompanying supply vessel will set sail on Friday from their base on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, Huang Xueping, a defence ministry spokesman, told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday.

He said the deployment would help to protect Chinese ships transiting the area, but also that the Chinese navy was willing to work with others battling pirates in the region, including warships the US, Russia and the European Union.

Piracy off the Horn of Africa has taken an increasing toll on international shipping, especially in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

This year more than 40 vessels have been hijacked off the Somali coast, with pirates taking an estimated $30m in ransom payments.

Last week Chinese foreign ministry officials said about 20 per cent of Chinese ships travelling through the area had come under attack.

International security

Although China has a huge global commercial maritime presence, the deployment of the three warships will be China's first major naval operation abroad.

Until now the Chinese navy has primarily focused on defending the country's coastline, limiting operations abroad to port calls, goodwill visits and exercises with other navies.

But with China's growing global clout there have been calls for Beijing to take a greater role in international security affairs.

However, a senior Chinese military official played down the significance of the Somalia mission, saying the deployment did not show any major shift in policy.

"This is only an escorting operation to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters," Senior Captain Ma Luping, director of the Navy Bureau of the General Staff Headquarters Operations Department, said.

"It does not indicate any change in the strategy of the Chinese military."

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
join our mailing list