War­ships to help dis­pose of Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ZHOU WA zhouwa@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China can as­sume more re­spon­si­bil­ity in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs thanks to its en­hanced naval ca­pa­bil­ity, ob­servers said.

The Chi­nese navy will par­tic­i­pate in the United Na­tions mis­sion to dis­pose of Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons in the Mediter­ranean Sea.

It is the first time that the Chi­nese navy has par­tic­i­pated in an in­ter­na­tional con­voy task in the area.

“The Chi­nese navy’s es­cort helps en­sure the smooth progress of the de­struc­tion and cre­ates fa­vor­able con­di­tions for a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the Syr­ian is­sue,” said Dong Manyuan, an anti- ter­ror ex­pert at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Yi Guo­jun, a chem­i­cal weapons ex­pert, agreed. “The Chi­nese navy’s es­cort proves that China, as a re­spon­si­ble de­vel­op­ing power, is a solid force for safe­guard­ing re­gional sta­bil­ity and pro­tect­ing world peace. It shows its navy’s strong ca­pa­bil­ity but also its peace-lov­ing na­ture,” he said.

In Novem­ber, the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons adopted a plan in The Hague that called for the most crit­i­cal chem­i­cals to be re­moved from Syria by Dec 31 and de­stroyed by mid- March, while all other de­clared chem­i­cal ma­te­ri­als will be elim­i­nated by June 30.

In Oc­to­ber, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil unan­i­mously adopted Res­o­lu­tion 2118, which outlines the de­tails of putting Syria’s chem­i­cal arse­nal un­der in­ter­na­tional con­trol and ul­ti­mately de­stroy­ing it.

“Un­like other peace­keep­ing or es­cort­ing tasks, this com­mit­ment is more chal­leng­ing and com­pli­cated be­cause what the fleets will pro­tect are war­ships that carry hy­per­toxic chem­i­cals such as sarin gas and mus­tard gas, which are fa­tal,” Yi said.

The mar­itime trans­porta­tion of chem­i­cal weapons is a cru­cial step be­fore their fi­nal de­struc­tion, he added.

“Be­cause the chem­i­cals are lethal, it is es­sen­tial to elim­i­nate all fac­tors that could dis­turb the process, such as ter­ror­ists and pi­rates, and to guar­an­tee a safe exit out of the wartorn coun­try. There­fore, the es­cort needs to be done by a navy with abun­dant ex­pe­ri­ence,” Yi said.

Zhang Jun­she, a mil­i­tary ex­pert with the Naval Mil­i­tary Aca­demic Re­search In­sti­tute un­der the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, said the Chi­nese war­ship’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the es­cort mis­sion dig­ni­fies the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s recog­ni­tion of the Chi­nese navy’s es­cort ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The Chi­nese navy has in­creased its abil­ity to con­duct off- shore mil­i­tary ma­neu­vers, with a to­tal of 16 fleets and more than 13,000 of­fi­cers and sailors par­tic­i­pat­ing in ocean-go­ing mis­sions, since Dec 26, 2008, when Chi­nese navy ves­sels be­gan con­duct­ing es­cort mis­sions in the In­dian Ocean.

In an ear­lier news con­fer­ence, For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing showed China’s sup­port for the weapons de­struc­tion and ex­pressed China’s hope for the safe and smooth com­ple­tion of the dis­posal work.

In late Oc­to­ber, For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi called on that work on find­ing a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the Syr­ian cri­sis and de­stroy­ing the chem­i­cal weapons in the coun­try at the same time.

Chi­nese ex­perts had taken part in re­lated work, and China was will­ing to pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port in this re­gard, Wang said.

Ac­cord­ing to the OPCW’s plan, Den­mark and Nor­way will pro­vide ves­sels for the trans­porta­tion of the chem­i­cals, while other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Fin­land and Rus­sia, will help.

Rus­sian De­fense Min­is­ter Sergey Shoigu said on Mon­day that Rus­sian ar­mored trucks will be used for the re­moval of chem­i­cal weapons from ware­houses and mil­i­tary in­stal­lations in Syria.

The United States will pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties and pay for the neu­tral­iza­tion of pri­or­ity chem­i­cals on­board one of its own ves­sels at sea.

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