PLA Navy to provide escort as US transports Syrian arms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 6:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 3:44am

Beijing plans to send a warship to accompany the US vessel MV Cape Ray on its mission to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

Syria is due to hand over deadly toxins, which can be used to make sarin, VX gas and other lethal agents, under an international agreement forged after an attack on the outskirts of Damascus killed hundreds in August. The chemicals will be destroyed aboard the specially adapted US ship because they are too dangerous to import into any country.

"China hopes for the safe and smooth completion of the Syrian chemical weapons disposal work," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.

The PLA Navy would be responsible for escorting the mission from Syria to Italy, which would be the first time it would operate in the Mediterranean, Chen Kai, secretary general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told Xinhua.

"As China goes global, it will increasingly find it has a strong interest in global security, freedom of commerce and freedom of navigation, and combatting terrorism," said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank in Beijing.

Haenle said that while China was willing to contribute support to the mission, it did not play a significant role in the discussions leading up to the agreement. "China should also be trying to play a more active role in the next step of conflict resolution in Syria," he said.