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China is now the biggest contributor to peacekeeping missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The Chinese team, including engineers, medical staff and security guards, departed from Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, on Tuesday night.
These are the advance troops of a 395-strong force that China will send to Mali at the request of the United Nations. Chinese missions had earlier included only medical and logistical support forces.
China has repeatedly insisted that peacekeeping personnel should not be directly involved in military conflicts in host countries.
While announcing the Mali deployment earlier in June, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said 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 China’s UN peacekeeping forces.
Chinese media said ahead of the Mali deployment, more than 1,700 tonnes of equipment and materials have been transported by sea to the task execution area.
China established its 395-strong peacekeeping force to Mali in July, months after France began a military offensive in January in the West African country, targeting Islamist rebels who had threatened to take over Bamako, the capital of Mali.
Since 2000, China has dispatched peace-keeping security forces to at least eight task regions, including Timore-Leste, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Liberia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, and South Sudan.
TBP and Agencies