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China ready to send warships to Somalia
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Crew members of a navy helicopter prepare for the departure in Sanya, capital of South China's Hainan Province on Dec. 25, 2008.[Xinhua Photo]

Fleet equipments in good form

The escorting mission will also be the maiden operation in real combat conditions for the two destroyers. They are among the Chinese Navy's most sophisticated war vessels and both are designed and manufactured by China.

The Weishanhu supply ship started service in 2004, and has participated in the Navy's goodwill visits to south Asia and Europe.

"All the ships' equipment has been in excellent form after various exercises and training," Real-Admiral Du said.

Captain Long Juan of the Wuhan destroyer said the high temperature, humidity and salinity in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia could bring challenges to the equipment and crew members.

"To secure the ships' reliability, communication, navigating and power equipment has been provided with backup systems," the captain said.

Soldiers of Chinese navy special force rank in an anti pirate drill on the deck of DDG-171 Haikou destroyer in Sanya, capital of South China's Hainan Province, on Dec. 25, 2008.[Xinhua Photo]

Adequate supply for months

Seamen of the fleet have been seen transporting pure water, beverages and food from the land base to the warships. All material storage was finished by Thursday evening.

Captain Xi Feijun of the Weishanhu told Xinhua that his ship had stored fuel, water and food to last several months for the fleet.

The ships' mess will provide self-service meals during the entire mission. It will offer dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruit and other high caloric content food, Captain Long Juan told the Xinhua reporter aboard.

The Xinhua reporter also saw libraries, computer rooms and gymnasiums on the ships which have been prepared for the crew members in their leisure time.

The fleet will be the first overseas deployment for Chinese maritime forces since the 15th century. Previously, the People's Liberation Army Navy focused on coastline defense and limited operations abroad to goodwill visits and drills with other navies.

China's Foreign Ministry officially announced the deployment on Saturday, saying that China will observe UN resolutions and international laws in fulfilling its obligations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said 1,265 Chinese commercial vessels had passed through the gulf so far this year and seven of them were attacked. One fishing ship and 18 crew members were still being held by pirates.

(Xinhua News Agency December 26, 2008)

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