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In its first foray into sending security forces for peacekeeping missions, the Chinese Army will send peacekeepers to Mali, says an official from the Ministry of National Defence.
Chinese peacekeepers till now have consisted of engineers, medical workers and transport staff.
At the request of the UN, the Chinese government will now dispatch nearly 400 soldiers to join the UN’s ‘Stabilisation Mission in Mali’ (MINUSMA), Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said at a monthly press briefing on Thursday.
However, Yang noted that peacekeeping personnel should not be directly involved in military conflicts in host countries.
“The Chinese security force is actually a guard team that will mainly be responsible for the security of the MINUSMA headquarters and the living areas of peacekeeping forces,” he said.
Responding to media questions, Yang ruled out the rumours of ‘combat forces’ in UN peacekeeping forces.
On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying revealed that China has so far dispatched more than 20,000 military personnel, police and civil affairs officials for UN peacekeeping missions.
This new initiative now makes China the biggest contributor to peacekeeping missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
“A total of 1,645 military personnel and policemen are currently participating in nine missions,” she said.
Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised China’s participation in UN peacekeeping efforts during a visit to a peacekeeping training base in Beijing.
“China will continue to actively participate in UN peacekeeping missions and make contributions toward promoting the UN peacekeeping drive and maintaining peace and security around the world,” Hua noted.