NAVAL BASE,YALONGBAY -- The Chinese navy, which on Friday embarks on its first overseas military mission since 1949, said it is ready for a prolonged mission in the Gulf of Adenagainst the Somali pirates.
Du Jingchen, chief commander of the mission, said his three warships and near-1000 soldiers, setting off from China’s south end Hainan at around 1:30 p.m. today, have prepared for "complicated and long-term maritime missions" over the coming few months.
Media earlier reported the mission would last three months, but naval officers said it could last longer if necessary.
"Because this is the first time for our navy to conduct a mission overseas, we can foresee unpredicted situations. But we have prepared for them," said Rear Admiral Du, a veteran naval officer.
The commander was speaking to a small pack of Chinese journalists during a 20-minute meeting inside the missile destroyer "Wuhan," the flagship of a fleet composed by two advanced destroyers and a large supply vessel from the Guangdong-based South China Sea Fleet.
Ding He, 21, a suntanned soldier on the flagship, said on the front deck he was too proud that he forgot the upset of not being allowed to swim in the best beach nationwide since he joined the fleet.
"But the pride is too hard to control. It washed all the pain of training away," said theHebeinative, one of youngest soldiers in this mission.
It was not only the maiden voyage for Ding. The destroyer "Haikou," completed in October 2003, will also have its debut overseas.
All three ships, clad in white paints and colorful flags, rest peacefully along with three other vessels Thursday at one bay in the city of Sanya. The ships were also visible from a world famed beach resort flocked by holiday goers, some of whom took pictures with the distant warships.
"As China's power grows, so does the responsibility," said Liu Hui, a 28-year-old traveler fromBeijing, who had also built a model warship from the sand.
"Our confidence comes from our capability," said the chief commander, noting the advanced equipments onboard have demonstrated the strong side of the Chinese Navy.
He also said a special force team with 60-strong soldiers may be assigned to vessels carrying vital materials or personnel and guard them safely through the Somali waters.
But Du insisted the Navy has not planned for any actions against the pirates on land, and the Navy will not fire at the pirates unless the Chinese vessels, both civilian and military, are attacked.
"We will instead evict the pirates," he explained.
Du said the fleet also conducted training sessions in late evenings and early mornings because the pirates often attacked ships off guard.
The transport authorities, who tracks hijacked vessels in the region, said earlier the Chinese Navy will guard all Chinese ships, including those from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, who have applied for protection.
The Navy said it will also protect foreign vessels attacked by the pirates if necessary through humanitarian methods.
Du told China Daily the Navy has no plan to rescue FV Tian Yu 8, a Chinese fishing vessel still held by Somali pirates, since the agricultural and diplomatic officials are negotiating with the pirates.
The ship was seized by pirates in the Kenyan fishing waters on November 14 before being escorted by the US 5th Fleet to an anchorage off the Somali coast. The Chinese authority has the exact location of the ship.