Mainland military engineers and medical staff will join United Nations peace-keeping forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Beijing announced yesterday. Xinhua reported that the PLA contingent would be made up of 175 engineers and 43 medics, who will wear the official blue caps of UN peace-keepers. Six armoured vehicles, which will be painted UN-white, will also be dispatched to the African nation. The decision was approved by the State Council and the Central Military Commission, the report said. But no date for the deployment has been announced. Analysts see the action as another major step in Beijing's new willingness to participate in international and military affairs. 'This is another sign China no longer feels it is outside the international community, but a member,' said Professor Chu Shulong, director of Tsinghua University's institute of strategic studies. Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan pledged that Beijing would provide logistical support for the peace process under way in the Congo during a visit to the country's capital, Kinshasa, on Thursday. In addition to the military support, Mr Tang announced Beijing would also provide 20 million yuan (HK$18.8 million) in aid to the Congo, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 1998. The deployment will be the PLA's largest participation in UN peace-keeping activities since 800 engineer soldiers were sent to Cambodia in 1992. According to the 2002 National Defence Paper, Beijing has sent more than 1,450 staff, including civilians, to 10 different UN peace-keeping operations since 1990. There are currently more than 50 PLA military observers in six UN peace-keeping regions. There are also about 70 police officers in East Timor as well as 15 in Bosnia. Beijing has historically shunned international co-operation schemes and adopted a foreign policy of non-interference. But since the 1980s, the nation has become increasingly involved in global issues such as trade and finance. These closer links have led to a shift towards an engagement-oriented foreign policy. Analysts say the shift was hastened by the September 11 terrorist attacks, particularly on security issues. In an essay published earlier this month, the PLA's deputy chief of general staff, General Xiong Guangkai, said that as a result of the global fight against terrorism, Beijing should actively promote regional security and economic co-operation. Analysts say the PLA may soon co-operate on regional security schemes in addition to increasing its presence in UN peace-keeping activities. However, they added the PLA would likely have a limited role in UN peace-keeping activities and not participate in any arrangement that went beyond peace-keeping.