Foreign and Military Affairs

UN mandate extended to 2012

Updated: 2011-01-25 07:10

By Bao Daozu (China Daily)

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World body lengthens anti-piracy operation off Somali coast for navy

BEIJING - China's navy will be allowed to continue to patrol waters off Somalia until the end of 2012 following the extension of the United Nations mandate to protect ships from piracy, a senior maritime official said on Monday.

The news was disclosed by Zhai Jiugang, director of the general duty office of the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center, on the sidelines of a press briefing.

So far, the Ministry of Defense has yet to respond to the extended mandate.

Before the UN extension, the European Union had already sanctioned Operation Atalanta - launched in December 2008 to protect humanitarian aid and reduce disruption to shipping routes - until December 2012. As many as 12 EU warships operate at any one time in waters off Somalia.

China sent ships to join international escort missions off the Horn of Africa in December 2008, in response to a series of resolutions adopted by the UN, which has urged the international community to address the piracy off Somalia.

The Chinese ships had escorted 280 groups of vessels, with a total number of more than 3,100 ships, in the region by the end of last year, Chen Aiping, deputy head of China Maritime Search and Rescue Center, said.

Last year, the center received more than 800 requests from domestic shipping companies for escorts.

The escort mission has gone smoothly so far, but recent events have highlighted the dangers.

According to reports on Monday, Somali pirates threatened to kill any Republic of Korea (ROK) sailor or officer they take hostage to avenge the killings of eight pirates by ROK commandos who stormed a hijacked cargo ship on Friday, freeing the crew.

Commenting on the latest development, Zhai said Somali pirates are becoming "more and more cunning" as they usually use hostages as human shields against storming actions, he said.

The pirates could now sail beyond the Gulf of Aden to a much broader area in the Indian Ocean, making it difficult for commercial ships to defend themselves.

In November 2010, two Chinese cargo ships, Lecong and Tai'ankou, were attacked in an area not patrolled by Chinese warships but following their quick arrival the ships were escorted to safety.

The center has called on shipping companies to upgrade equipment on the ships, with more self-defense facilities, and build safety compartments to protect crews once pirates are on board.

Zhou Xiaokang, general manager of the ship safety management department of China Shipping Group Company, said the company has asked all its ships to install hidden compartments, equipped with communications as well as food and water, as a last line of defense against pirates.

Tan Zongyang contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 01/25/2011 page4)


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