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    » 10/23/2009, 00.00


    Chinese ship seized by pirates reaches Somali coast

    Questions remain as to whether China’s Navy will attack to free the hostages. If that happens, it would be China’s first naval battle in centuries. Ship seizure sparks a patriotic wave online.
    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The De Xin Hai, a Chinese bulk carrier, was seized by Somali pirates and is now anchored off the coast of Somalia. EU Navfor, the European Union anti-piracy force, confirmed yesterday the ship had arrived off the coast of Somalia and was near Hobyo. It was captured on 19 October in the Indian Ocean between the Seychelles and Maldives.

    It is still not clear what Chinese authorities will do to free the 25 crewmembers on board, but they vowed “all-out efforts” to rescue ship and crew without endangering their lives.

    The De Xin Hai carried coal, heading to India from South Africa when it was hijacked.

    Until recently, piracy was centred mainly in the Gulf of Aden region. This is the first time a vessel was captured so far from the Somali coastline.

    In addition to the De Xin Hai, pirates also hijacked a Panamanian-flagged carrier, bringing the total number of international vessels in their hands to seven.

    Usually, such situations have been solved by the payment of ransom money; it is not clear whether China will do the same.

    Three Chinese Navy ships are in the Indian Ocean, and are now sailing towards the Somali coast. They will join ships from NATO, the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia that have been deployed in the area in an attempt to secure merchant shipping.

    In China, the hijack saga off Somalia has stoked the fires of nationalism online, with patriotic internet users calling for a showdown between the three Chinese navy ships and the pirates.

    "Our government's authority would be undermined if we surrender to pirates, and this would be a disaster for the leaders and the general public,” someone wrote online.

    China is a major world country and also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, so giving in to terrorism and piracy would make us the laughing stock of the world,” said another.

    Various experts believe that China’s Navy is eager for a showdown. For months, the Chinese military have been showing off their modern weaponry and professionalism, displayed in great pomp and ceremony during 1 October celebrations.

    If China does take on the pirates, it would be the first time in centuries that Chinese naval forces are involved in combat outside the country’s territorial waters.

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    See also

    14/03/2009 JAPAN
    Japanese warships join fight against pirates in Somalia
    They are leaving today for the Gulf of Aden. The constitution permits only military actions of self-defense, but 61% of the country views the effort favorably.

    13/01/2009 CHINA - TAIWAN
    Chinese army protects Taiwanese ship from Somali pirates
    Since December, Chinese naval forces have been patrolling the area to protect Chinese commercial convoys. Yesterday, they escorted a Taiwanese oil tanker.

    05/05/2009 KOREA
    South Korea Navy rescues Pyongyang merchant ship
    Off the coast of Yemen a pirate attack is at the origins of an informal case of collaboration between the opposing nations.

    25/06/2011 INDIA
    India releases five Pakistani sailors, arrested “by mistake” along with pirates
    Abducted by Somali pirates in December 2010, and later freed by the Indian Navy in March of this year, they were held in custody for three months because Indian and Pakistani authorities did not see the mistake. Housed in a Mumbai police station, now they are “ambassadors of peace” in Pakistan.

    27/04/2012 SRI LANKA
    Six Sri Lankan fishermen held by Somali pirates are rescued
    All six are Catholic from Negombo. They disappeared six months ago. They were rescued by a Spanish naval vessel, the Infanta Elena, involved in anti-piracy activity with the European Union Naval Forces. Speaking about their government, some of the wives said, "No one helped us."

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