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January 7, 2009

China undertakes first Gulf of Aden escort

Xinhua reports that a Chinese naval fleet arrived Tuesday in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia to carry out its first escort mission to protect against pirates.

Four Chinese merchant ships, including one from China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, were escorted by the fleet. Ships from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan can request the escort services of the Chinese mainland's navy fleet in Somalian waters, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a regular press conference in Beijing yesterday.

The fleet, two destroyers and one supply ship, left a naval base on China's Hainan island last Friday under authorization from both the United Nations Security Council and Somalia's transitional government to primarily escort Chinese merchant ships.

The fleet includes about 800 crew members, including 70 soldiers from the Navy's special force, and is equipped with missiles, naval guns and light weapons.


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