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UPDATED: April 19, 2010 NO. 16 APRIL 22, 2010
China's Ensign Aloft

It is not the first time China has dispatched its ships to explore the deep blue seas. Early in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), navigator Zheng He and his merchant boats reached the Gulf of Aden. Now, more than 600 years later, China's naval vessels are escorting merchant vessels through the long existing waterways.

In December 2008, China dispatched the first of its overseas escort missions for merchant vessels, joining a multinational patrol in one of the world's busiest sea-lanes. The warship's expedition far away from its native coastline was unprecedented and deployed for a reason.

In Somalia's waters, rampant piracy has been endangering international shipping. Pirates do not discriminate when they attack merchant ships no matter what flag they are flying. The UN Security Council has been calling on all countries and regions to take part in patrolling the gulf and waters off Somalia since June 2008. It has formally authorized countries to "undertake all necessary measures in Somalia, including in its airspace" to stop the pirates.

China's trade with Africa, Europe and America also passes through these waters. Chinese merchant ships, loaded with natural resources and industrial products, have long been victims of the pirates. Besides, China's deep-sea fisheries have also been infested by these brigands. The Chinese vessels desperately need and deserve protection. The intention of the escort mission testifies to the defensive nature of the Chinese military actions.

The task force protects Chinese vessels and crews, including those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, who seek protection when passing through the area; as well as foreign ships who request China's help. It also helps ships carrying humanitarian relief for international organizations such as the UN World Food Program.

The deployment of the Chinese navy shows that our nation observes UN resolutions and international laws in fulfilling its obligations and safeguarding world peace and stability. The United Nations and its Security Council recognize China's endeavors in this area, saying the Chinese moves strongly support global efforts to fight pirates there. Through these operations, China's image as a responsible country has been enhanced.

During the past 15 months, Chinese naval warships have escorted thousands of domestic and foreign vessels since the first flotilla arrived in the region in January 2009. Now a fifth escort team patrols the waters off the Somali coast. Along with its predecessors and successors, these modern Chinese sailors play and will play historic roles in a time of peace on the deep blue sea.

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