China mulls armed escort on Mekong River

Updated: 2011-11-09 06:20


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BEIJING - China is considering giving armed escorts to ships navigating the Mekong River, a move which it would undertake in cooperation with its southeast Asian neighbors after a deadly boat raid last month, sources said Tuesday.

Fang Youguo, secretary-general of the Lancang River Shipping Association, said China would consult Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to finalize the plan.

The authorities in southwest China's Yunnan province, who are familiar with the plan, declined to immediately confirm it.

Local media reports quoted unnamed sources saying that China would send 600 security personnel to the joint marine forces, which would use refitted large merchant ships and dozens of speed-boats.

The security issue along the Mekong River has drawn public concern and evoked great emotion in China after 13 Chinese sailors on two cargo ships were killed in that area on October 5.

China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand agreed to formally establish the "Law Enforcement Cooperation along the Mekong River Mechanism" to cope with the new security situation on the river during a law enforcement meeting among senior cabinet members from the four countries on October 31.

The four countries also agreed to cooperate in patrolling and cracking down on cross-border crime and provide safe conditions for the resumption of shipping on the Mekong River before the Greater Mekong Sub-region  Meeting in December, according to the joint statement issued after the meeting.

The 4,880-km-long Mekong River, which runs through the four countries as well as Cambodia and Vietnam, served as a major trade route for the countries and the China-ASEAN free trade zone. But shipping on the waterway has been suspended after the deadly attack of Chinese sailors.