01/13/2009, 00.00
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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.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Yesterday, the Chinese army escorted a Taiwanese ship for 553 nautical miles, in the waters east of the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, infested with pirates.

The People's Liberation Army sent naval and air forces to the area in December, for the declared purpose of protecting Chinese ships from pirates. Yesterday, it escorted its second convoy of four ships, including the cargo ships Zhenhua 13 and Zhenhua 14, the Filipino ship Saga Horizon (registered in China), and the 70-ton Taiwanese oil tanker Formosaproduct Cosmos, owned by the Formosa Plastics Marine Corp., a leader in the sector.

The agency Xinhua, which released the news, does not indicate whether the Chinese armed forces have responded to an express request, or are operating within their normal service.

Experts observe that the mission nonetheless has an important political meaning, since it emphasizes that Beijing is presenting itself as the only legitimate protector of all the Chinese, including those of Taiwan. However, some circles in Taiwan are seeking to minimize its importance, observing that it is natural to ask for the support of the armed forces in that area, and that this collaboration is part of the existing relations between the official bodies of the two countries, like the Chinese Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, and the Taiwanese Straits Exchange Foundation.

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See also
Hijacked Saudi oil tanker spotted in Somali port
Japanese warships join fight against pirates in Somalia
Russian warship frees tanker hijacked by Somali pirates
Indian Navy sink Somali pirate ship
Chinese ship seized by pirates reaches Somali coast


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