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China confident, capable of patrolling off Somalia
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The Chinese navy is confident and capable of fulfilling its patrol task in the seas off Somalia, a senior Chinese navy officer said in Beijing on Tuesday.

The Chinese warships, two destroyers and a support vessel, will leave on Dec. 26 to join the growing number of international fleets of warships to combat piracy off the East African nation's coast.

"We don't have any insurmountable obstacles in patrolling in this sea area," Senior Colonel Ma Luping, director of the navy operational bureau under the Headquarters of the General Staff, told reporters.

He admitted that the Chinese navy vessels might encounter some complicated problems and inconvenience while carrying out the task as "the area is far from the Chinese mainland and the situation there is rather complicated".

"But there is nothing we cannot overcome. We are confident and capable of fulfilling the task," he said.

Ma said the Chinese navy's major task is to protect the safety of Chinese ships and crews as well as ships carrying humanitarian relief material for international organizations such as the United Nations World Food Programme.

Piracy along the Somalia coast is a threat to international shipping because the area is one of the busiest marine channels in the world.

Ships registered in China or owned by Chinese companies had been attacked by pirates off the Somalia coast this year. Last Wednesday, the crew of a Chinese cargo ship fought off pirates in the Gulf of Aden with the help of international forces.

So far the United States, NATO and other countries have sent naval forces to this area.

(Xinhua News Agency December 23, 2008)

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