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    China to send ships to fight piracy off Somali coast

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    China is planning to send navy vessels to the Gulf of Aden to fight pirate attacks off the coast of Somali, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

    BEIJING, December 18 (RIA Novosti) - China is planning to send navy vessels to the Gulf of Aden to fight pirate attacks off the coast of Somali, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

    China's Global Times newspaper said that Beijing would send three ships to the Gulf of Aden "in the near future," although that figure has not been confirmed. The Global Times is run by China's Communist Party.

    "Preparations are underway and once they are ready, more concrete information will be distributed. I think we need to wait just a few more days," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news briefing on Thursday.

    The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday authorizing countries and multinational organizations involved in tackling piracy to "undertake all necessary measures in Somalia, including in its airspace" to prevent "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."

    Resolution 1851 (2008), which was drafted by the United States, will be in effect for one year.

    The Chinese spokesman said that the actions of the Somali pirates "are threatening maritime safety and are destroying normal trade and economic activities in the region."

    He also pointed out that over the last 11 months, 1,265 commercial vessels have passed through the Gulf of Aden and approximately 20%, including Chinese ships, have been attacked by Somali pirates.

    On Wednesday, a Chinese commercial vessel, the Zhenhua-4, came under attack for several hours before international coalition forces, including helicopters, drove the pirates out of the area. The Zhenhua-4 has 30 Chinese crewmembers on board; none of them were injured during the incident.

    According to reports from China's Xinhua newspaper, the ship belonged to China Communications Construction Co. and was registered in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.

    "Two helicopters arrived at the scene first and helped deter the hijacking. They fired at the pirates, forcing them to flee the ship," said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    The navies of at least 10 countries are involved in anti-piracy operations off the coast of the east African nation, which has no functioning government to police its coastline.

    In October, Russia sent the Neustrashimy (Fearless) missile frigate from the Northern Fleet to Somalia's coast to protect commercial shipping. The Neustrashimy will continue its mission until the end of the year, when it will be replaced by the Pacific Fleet's destroyer Admiral Vinogradov.

     

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