China is considering the option of escorting its naval vessels in the Persian Gulf in accordance with a US proposal for a maritime coalition tasked to secure oil shipping routes amid tanker seizures in the region, a Chinese envoy to the United Arab Emirates Ni Jian told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.
"If there happens to be a very unsafe situation we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels" Reuters quoted the ambassador as saying. "We are studying the US proposal on Gulf escort arrangements", he added.
The United States has been calling on other nations to join a maritime security coalition Called "Operation Sentinel" to protect vessels in the Gulf region. It is not clear whether Washington has made an official request to Beijing.
The United Kingdom has so far been the only state that joined the US-proposed mission. Several other countries such as South Korea, Denmark and France voiced various degrees of interest in this initiative. Germany has declined to join the mission.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf have been on the rise over the past several months.
On 4 July, Royal Marine commandos boarded and seized the Grace-1, a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker loaded with Iranian oil. London alleged that the ship was heading for an oil processing terminal in Syria, in violation of European Union sanctions against the war-torn country. Iran has denied the claims.
On 20 July, the Stena Impero, a British-flagged tanker was boarded and seized by Iranian commandos, with Tehran alleging that the vessel had engaged in dangerous manoeuvers and rammed an Iranian fishing vessel sending out distress calls. The UK has denied these claims and demanded the immediate release of the ship.
Following the seizure, the UK announced plans to put together a European-led coalition separate from a similar US initiative to patrol the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in a bid to "protect" commercial vessels. Germany, France, Denmark, and Italy have reportedly backed London's idea.