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China's anti-piracy escorts not a short-term mission
Updated: 2009-03-11 16:57

BEIJING  -- Chinese navy's anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast will not end in a short period of time, navy rear admiral Zhang Deshun of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) said here Wednesday.

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"The navy has already made a long-term plan for our escorting missions to the Gulf of Aden," said Zhang, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Navy.

"The length of our mission depends on the Somali political and social stability. We feel our mission will not come to an end soon," Zhang told Xinhua.

China will renew its anti-piracy mission by sending new ships and crew to replace its current three-ship flotilla in late April or early May, Zhang said earlier.

The flotilla, destroyers Wuhan and Haikou, and the supply ship Weishanhu, took up its duties off the Somali coast in January.

With a crew of more than 800 members including 70 soldiers from the Navy's special forces, the three ships have already escorted 104 ships and rescued three foreign merchant ships from pirate attacks, according to Huang Jiaxiang, political commissar of the PLA Navy's South China Sea Fleet.

Huang admitted that the navy's anti-piracy mission might encounter great challenges in the coming months, as the number of ships passing the water off the Somali coast would increase from April to September, and the conditions on the sea during that time would be more hostile.

He said the escort flotilla has done well so far in fulfilling its mission in that it is performing China's international obligation, has protected China's national interests, enhanced the navy's capacity

About 20 percent of Chinese merchant ships passing through the waters off the Somali coast were attacked by pirates from January to November in 2008, according to Huang.

A total of seven ships, either owned by China or carrying Chinese cargo and crew, were also hijacked.

Tianyu No. 8, a Chinese fishing vessel with 16 Chinese (including one from Taiwan) and 8 foreign sailors aboard, was captured by the Somali pirates and was not released until early February this year.