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Chinese peacekeepers set to join UN's fast-response team

By Li Wensha and Cecily Liu in London ( Updated: 2016-09-09 01:09

Chinese peacekeepers set to join UN's fast-response team

Defense ministers and representatives from more than 70 countries and institutions attend the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial 2016 in London, September 8, 2016. [Photo provided to]

China is ready to participate in the United Nations' new fast-response peacekeeping force.

Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan said on Thursday that Beijing will fully support the UN Peacekeeping Department's initiative to set up a "vanguard brigade" of 4,000 rapidly deployable troops.

It will do so by ensuring a contingent of its force of 8,000 troops set aside for peacekeeping work meets the UN's Level II readiness requirement of 60 days.

"We will maintain close communication with the UN Peacekeeping Department on when the Chinese troops will join the ‘vanguard brigade' and the number of such troops," said Chang.

China will also jointly host a seminar with UN authorities next year to share experiences relating to the safety and security of peacekeepers.

Chang was speaking at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial 2016 in London, which was attended by defense ministers and representatives from more than 70 countries and institutions.

China promised to join the new Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System and committed a standby military force of 8,000 when President Xi Jinping addressed the 2015 Leaders' Summit on UN Peacekeeping. Xi said China would also train 2,000 international peacekeepers, give $100 million in military aid to the African Union, and send its first helicopter squad to peacekeeping operations in Africa.

Herve Ladsous, United Nations under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said he visited China earlier this year and saw "exciting progress" in its implementation of the peacekeeping commitments Xi made last year.

Chinese peacekeepers set to join UN's fast-response team

Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan attends the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial 2016 in London, September 8, 2016. [Photo provided to]

Ladsous also praised Chinese peacekeeping troops. "They are deployed in very difficult environments, they have suffered tragic casualties in Mali and South Sudan not so long ago, and I think China is demonstrating courage and commitment to the international community," he said.

Chang said China is on track to fulfill its commitments. It has already trained about 500 peacekeepers, is set to complete registration of its standby force of 8,000, and the helicopter squad is ready for deployment. Discussions about the $100 million in military assistance are underway.

Chang said in his speech that China has long contributed to the UN's work and has dispatched the largest number of peacekeepers among the five Security Council permanent members. It is the second largest contributor of peacekeeping funding and, in the next three years, will cover 10.2 percent of UN peacekeeping expenses.

In China's 26 years of participation in peacekeeping operations, 33,000 military personnel have taken part. Today, 2,500 Chinese military personnel are on active duty in nine mission areas.

International experts recognize China's contribution to UN peacekeeping — both financial and non-financial — including its sharing of engineering expertise and equipment, said Walter Dorn, professor of defense studies at the Royal Military College of Canada.

"Chinese peacekeeping units are well trained and very experienced," he said.

Yongjin Zhang, a professor of international politics at the University of Bristol, said China's peacekeeping contributions show its willingness to accept responsibility in safeguarding international security.

Catherine Gegout, associate professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, said: "It is gaining experience in working with partners at the United Nations, meaning further cooperation with French, British or African Union troops can happen in future conflict areas."

Chang also met with UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon for a UK-China bilateral discussion during the summit.

Fallon said China's announcements on Thursday marked "a watershed in China's evolution in playing a greater international role".

Fallon also said his meeting with Chang was "fruitful", adding that he hopes defense relations will be part of the new era of British-Chinese relations.

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