China to play bigger role in United Nations peacekeeping missions, begins drills

Training exercise comes after 8,000 troops registered with United Nations

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 November, 2017, 8:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 10:01am

China has started training peacekeeping troops at one of its bases used for special operations forces, according to the People’s Liberation Army.

Troops and key commanders took part in a two-day drill from Thursday at the Queshan Combined Arms Training Base in Zhumadian, southern Henan province, the PLA said in a statement, without giving further details.

The base is specifically used for special operations training.

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Military experts said the PLA was trying to improve the combat capabilities of its peacekeeping troops, who are expected to be sent to war-torn regions in Africa as China takes a bigger role in United Nations missions.

The training exercise comes after China completed registration of some 8,000 troops with the United Nations on September 22 in line with a pledge made by President Xi Jinping in 2015.

Those troops will be from 19 units across six services – infantry, engineers, transport, guards, quick reaction and helicopter crew, the PLA said in the statement on Saturday.

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Overseas peacekeeping missions were now part of the PLA’s real-combat drills, according to Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming.

“In the past, China was less involved in these peacekeeping missions, so the PLA would just transfer a small number of troops from its armed forces and training would be taken care of by affiliated units,” Zhou said, adding that this was inadequate to prepare the troops for the situations they faced overseas.

“China is playing a bigger role in UN peacekeeping missions as its troops carry out tasks in many war-torn countries in Africa – they need more of these real-combat drills to prepare them.”

Naval expert Li Jie, who is based in Beijing, said the PLA’s peacekeeping forces included a wide range of personnel from the armed police, marines, engineers as well as medical staff.

“They need professional and tough training because these personnel come from different units that are involved in peacekeeping missions. They will be sent to work in environments they are not familiar with, without much support,” Li said.

Xi also pledged to help train 2,000 peacekeeping troops from other countries and provide US$100 million in military aid to the African Union. China has already trained 1,100 foreign troops and plans to train 900 more by 2020, said Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, director of the security cooperation centre under the defence ministry’s Office for International Military Cooperation.

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In August, China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, which it claims will be used for “logistics purposes” for its anti-piracy, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations.

Beijing sent security forces to Mali in 2013 and, the following year, a battalion of combat troops to South Sudan – the first time the PLA had sent combat forces overseas to protect civilians.

Some 36,000 Chinese have served in UN peacekeeping missions in the past 27 years, with 13 killed in these operations, according to the PLA. China has nine units serving in UN missions at present – some 91.5 per cent of its peacekeeping force, the PLA said.