Friday, December 26, 2008

China Ready to Send Warships to Somalia For Escort Mission, Says Fleet Commander

China ready to send warships to Somalia for escort mission, fleet commander

By Xinhua writer Yan Hao

·Crew members of the fleet had full confidence in fulfilling the escorting mission.
·Fleet will set sail from a port in China's southmost city of Sanya on Hainan island Friday.
·The fleet will carry 800 crew members, including 70 soldiers from the Navy's special force.

A photo taken on Dec. 25, 2008 showed the Chinese Navy's supply ship Weishanhu in Sanya, capital of South China's Hainan Province. The Chinese Navy's three-ship fleet was awaiting to sail towards waters off Somalia had finished its preparations for the overseas deployment, the fleet commander said Thursday.

SANYA, Hainan Province, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Navy's three-ship fleet awaiting sail to waters off Somalia has finished its preparations for the overseas deployment, the fleet commander said Thursday.

The commander, Rear-Admiral Du Jingcheng told Xinhua aboard the Navy's DDG-171 Haikou destroyer that all crew members of the fleet had full confidence in their ability to fulfill the escorting mission.

The Haikou together with another destroyer, DDG-169 Wuhan, and supply ship Weishanhu from the South Sea Fleet will set sail from a port in China's southmost city of Sanya on Hainan island Friday. The fleet will join in the multi-national patrolling of the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia.

The fleet will carry about 800 crew members, including 70 soldiers form the Navy's special force, and is equipped with ship-borne missiles, cannons and light weapons.

"The fleet's warships will primarily safeguard vessels passing through the waters. The fleet's helicopters will be responsible for the fleet's own safety, material delivery as well as rescue tasks," the commander said.

"The fleet will protect and escort Chinese ships carrying strategic cargos, such as crude oil," he added.

The commander, who serves as chief of staff of the Navy's SouthSea Fleet, said that the upcoming mission may take a long time and may involve unforeseeable challenges.

"We have made special preparations to deal with pirates, even though these waters are not familiar to us," he said.

The crewmen have made physical and psychological preparations for the mission by intensified training in shooting, maritime tactics and diving, said Lieutenant Commander Xie Zengling, chief of the special force unit, adding that one special force soldier could handle several enemies with bare hands.

"We are expected to encounter fire conflicts with pirates in these waters," said the fleet's commander, "but our primary target is not striking them but dispelling them."

"If the pirates make direct threats to the warships or the vessels we escort, the fleet will take counter measures," he said.


The escorting mission will also be the maiden operation in real combat conditions for the two destroyers. They are among the Chinese Navy's most sophisticated war vessels and both are designed and manufactured by China.

The Weishanhu supply ship started service in 2004, and has participated in the Navy's goodwill visits to south Asia and Europe.

"All the ships' equipment has been is in excellent form after various exercises and training," Real-Admiral Du said.

Captain Long Juan of the Wuhan destroyer said the high temperature, humidity and salinity in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia could bring challenges to the equipment and crew members.

"To secure the ships' reliability, communication, navigating and power equipment has been provided with backup systems," the captain said.


Seamen of the fleet have been seen transporting pure water, beverages and food from the land base to the warships. All material storage was finished by Thursday evening.

Captain Xi Feijun of the Weishanhu told Xinhua that his ship had stored fuel, water and food to last several months for the fleet.

The ships' mess will provide self-service meals during the entire mission. It will offer dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruit and other high caloric content food, Captain Long Juan told the Xinhua reporter aboard.

The Xinhua reporter also saw libraries, computer rooms and gymnasiums on the ships which have been prepared for the crew members in their leisure time.

The fleet will be the first overseas deployment for Chinese maritime forces since the 15th century. Previously, the People's Liberation Army Navy focused on coastline defense and limited operations abroad to goodwill visits and drills with other navies.

China's Foreign Ministry officially announced the deployment on Saturday, saying that China will observe UN resolutions and international laws in fulfilling its obligations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said 1,265 Chinese commercial vessels had passed through the gulf so far this year and seven of them were attacked. One fishing ship and 18 crew members were still being held by pirates.

Xinhua writer Bai Ruixue contributed to the story.

China navy "confident, capable" in Somalia piracy mission
2008-12-23 12:35:47

BEIJING, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- China's navy is confident in its task to patrol the seas off the Somali coast, a senior navy officer said here on Tuesday.

Two missile destroyers and a support vessel will leave Sanya in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan on Friday to join the growing number of international warships fighting piracy off the east African nation's coast.

"We don't have any insurmountable obstacles in patrolling this area," Senior Col. Ma Luping, director of the navy operational bureau under the Headquarters of the General Staff, told reporters.

He said that the vessels might encounter complicated problems during the mission as "the area is far from the Chinese mainland and the situation there is rather complicated.

"But there is nothing we cannot overcome ... we are confident and capable of fulfilling the task," he said at a news briefing held by the Ministry of Defense.

The two destroyers and the supply vessel will cruise through the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, the Indian Ocean and reach their destination about ten days after their departure.

Ma said the navy's main task is to protect the safety of Chinese ships and crews, including those from Taiwan, as well as ships carrying humanitarian relief material for international organizations such as the United Nations World Food Program.

"Normally, we will not enter other countries territorial waters to battle pirates."

Piracy along the Somali coast is a threat to international shipping.

Ships registered in China or owned by Chinese companies have been attacked by pirates off the Somali coast seven times this year. Last Wednesday, the crew of a Chinese cargo ship fought off pirates in the Gulf of Aden with the help of international forces.

According to the International Maritime Organization, more than120 acts of piracy have occurred in Somali waters, involving more than 30 vessels and 600 crew members.

Xiao Xinnian, deputy chief of staff of the navy force of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said the decision to dispatch warships on patrol mission "showcased China's positive attitude in fulfilling its international obligations and the country's image as a responsible power.

"It also shows the positive role of the PLA in maintaining world stability and peace as well as the PLA navy's confidence and capability of handling multiple security threats and fulfilling diverse military tasks," he said.

It is estimated that there are about 1,000 pirates in 25 to 30 groups in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia.

Xiao said special troops will be on the warships, which are equipped with missiles, artillery and two helicopters.

"Commanders and soldiers on the three warships are well-trained and they have trained specially for the task," Xiao said. "It will be no problem for them to perform that task."

The vessels will carry most of their own supplies, stopping at some regional ports over the longer term. "We are consulting with relevant countries about the issue," Xiao said.

So far the United States, NATO and other military forces have sent naval forces to the area.

Huang Xueping, spokesman of the Ministry of Defense, said China welcomes international cooperation in fighting Somali pirates.

"China is ready to exchange information and cooperate with the warships of other countries in performing humanitarian rescue tasks," he said.

The United States is pleased with China's move. Pentagon spokesman Maj. Stewart Upton said earlier the United States welcomed China's move.

Huang said China is ready to cooperate with the U.S. military. Bilateral military ties suffered setbacks after the United States announced a weapons sale to Taiwan in October.

The United Nations Security Council last week unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the international community to take an active part in the fight against piracy off the Somali coast.