Tuesday, January 13, 2009
A Chinese naval task force began escorting a Taiwanese merchant ship and three other vessels in the Gulf of Aden in a mission to protect them from Somali pirates. Two Chinese special forces teams are aboard the merchant ships, which departed yesterday, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Chinese destroyer Wuhan is accompanying the ships. Ties between the governments in Taipei and Beijing have improved since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president last May, ending the pro-independence stance of his predecessor. China last month deployed vessels to escort merchant vessels along Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast and the Gulf of Aden after the United Nations Security Council authorized naval forces to fight pirates in the area. Buccaneers seized 40 ships last year.
Chinese destroyer DDG-169 WuhanA second destroyer, Haikou, will join the mission at a later stage, Xinhua reported. The vessels are among the most sophisticated in the Chinese navy, carrying anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, Xinhua said last month. Between January and November last year, 1,265 Chinese commercial ships passed through Somalia’s waters, according to China’s Foreign Ministry. About one-fifth of those ships had confrontations with pirates, ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said last month. The Chinese force will escort the Taiwanese merchant ship as well as two vessels from Shanghai and one from the Philippines, according to Xinhua. Taiwan and China, which regards the island as part of its territory, have been ruled by separate governments since the end of a civil war in 1949, when Mao Zedong’s victorious communist forces took control of China’s government and drove Chiang Kai- shek’s Nationalist army to Taiwan.