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China aligns with India, Japan on piracy patrols

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Chinese missile frigate Zhoushan is welcomed by a group of students at the Stonecutters Island base in Hong Kong after completing escort duties in the Gulf of Aden to protect vessels from pirate attacks in this file photo. — AFP

BEIJING — China is closely cooperating with the navies of Japan and India in patrolling against piracy off Somalia, a sign of the country’s greater willingness to work with other nations in safeguarding global trade despite mixed sentiments among Chinese toward the country’s main Asian rivals.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force became the lead navy Sunday in the pact that allows the three to synchronize patrols and best allocate each country’s escort resources, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters at a briefing.

Analysts say the escort pact is a sign of growing Chinese naval confidence that could reduce the chances of confrontation in waters closer to China where navies from Japan, the US and others operate in increasingly tight proximity. With China expanding its naval capabilities and asserting its interests, it’s important that Beijing’s admirals start working more closely with their foreign counterparts, defense experts say.

“Chinese collaboration with other navies should be welcomed. The hope is that such cooperation will have a positive normative effect on the civilian and military leadership,” said Toshi Yoshihara of the US Naval War College.

China joined the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy patrols in late 2008, displaying the fruits of a 500 percent increase in defense outlays over the past 13 years that has allowed the Chinese navy to acquire latest-generation submarines, surface ships, and aircraft, along with an aircraft carrier now undergoing sea trials. In the gulf, it regularly rotates squadrons usually composed of a two warships and a support vessel, accompanied by special forces soldiers.

From the start, the Chinese contingent has been in contact with others in the multinational flotilla as it graduated from guarding Chinese ships to escorting ships of all nationalities. The three nations implemented patrol coordination this year, with China and India taking turns as lead navy before handing off to Japan on July 1. South Korea is reportedly interested in joining the arrangement. — AP


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