Warships to help dispose of Syrian chemical weapons

Updated: 2013-12-26 07:37

By Zhou Wa (China Daily USA)

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China can assume more responsibility in international affairs thanks to its enhanced naval capability, observers said.

The Chinese navy will participate in the United Nations mission to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons in the Mediterranean Sea.

It is the first time that the Chinese navy has participated in an international convoy task in the area.

"The Chinese navy's escort helps ensure the smooth progress of the destruction and creates favorable conditions for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian issue," said Dong Manyuan, an anti-terror expert at the China Institute of International Studies.

Yi Guojun, a chemical weapons expert, agreed. "The Chinese navy's escort proves that China, as a responsible developing power, is a solid force for safeguarding regional stability and protecting world peace. It shows its navy's strong capability but also its peace-loving nature," he said.

In November, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons adopted a plan in The Hague that called for the most critical chemicals to be removed from Syria by Dec 31 and destroyed by mid-March, while all other declared chemical materials will be eliminated by June 30.

In October, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2118, which outlines the details of putting Syria's chemical arsenal under international control and ultimately destroying it.

"Unlike other peacekeeping or escorting tasks, this commitment is more challenging and complicated because what the fleets will protect are warships that carry hypertoxic chemicals such as sarin gas and mustard gas, which are fatal," Yi said.

The maritime transportation of chemical weapons is a crucial step before their final destruction, he added.

"Because the chemicals are lethal, it is essential to eliminate all factors that could disturb the process, such as terrorists and pirates, and to guarantee a safe exit out of the war-torn country. Therefore, the escort needs to be done by a navy with abundant experience," Yi said.

Zhang Junshe, a military expert with the Naval Military Academic Research Institute under the People's Liberation Army, said the Chinese warship's participation in the escort mission dignifies the international community's recognition of the Chinese navy's escort capabilities.

The Chinese navy has increased its ability to conduct off-shore military maneuvers, with a total of 16 fleets and more than 13,000 officers and sailors participating in ocean-going missions, since Dec 26, 2008, when Chinese navy vessels began conducting escort missions in the Indian Ocean.

In an earlier news conference, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying showed China's support for the weapons destruction and expressed China's hope for the safe and smooth completion of the disposal work.

In late October, Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on that work on finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis and destroying the chemical weapons in the country at the same time.

Chinese experts had taken part in related work, and China was willing to provide financial support in this regard, Wang said.

According to the OPCW's plan, Denmark and Norway will provide vessels for the transportation of the chemicals, while other countries, including Finland and Russia, will help.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Monday that Russian armored trucks will be used for the removal of chemical weapons from warehouses and military installations in Syria.

The United States will provide facilities and pay for the neutralization of priority chemicals onboard one of its own vessels at sea.


(China Daily USA 12/26/2013 page7)