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China Launches Anti-Piracy Mission


Three Chinese warships were on their way to the Gulf of Aden Friday to join international efforts to fight Somali pirate attacks. Japan's prime minister also said Japan may consider joining the anti-piracy mission.

China's official news agency Xinhua reported that two destroyers and a supply ship carrying Special Forces troops left from a base in the southern province of Hainan Friday.

The commander of the three warships, Rear-Admiral Du Jingchen, described the mission as the vessels were preparing to leave.

He said each ship will have different tasks and assignments, but the main mission is to protect ships in Gulf of Aden, and escort ships to protect them and their cargo.

China announced Tuesday that it planned to join anti-piracy efforts after the United Nations Security Council authorized nations to attack pirate bases from air and land.

The Chinese ships will join warships from other countries including India, Russia, NATO and the United States.

At a news conference in Tokyo Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said his country was also considering joining anti-piracy efforts.

He said each nation is taking measures against the Somalian pirates. So, Japan should also take its own steps.

"It is inappropriate to say that we cannot help foreign national ships in danger while we protect Japanese national ships. So, I think we need to revise the bill and put the proposal at the next parliamentary session. We will probably put it [forward] as maritime policing activity," said Japan's prime minister.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, Karim Kudrati, managing director of the Mokatu Shipping Company, urged the Chinese and other anti-piracy missions to protect the interests of all ships in the piracy-prone area.

"All the countries are sponsoring their vessels to protect their interests. What about the people that we don't have, the navies of their country?" He asked.

A vessel from Kudrati's shipping company was hijacked by pirates last year.

Somali pirates have stepped up their attacks against ships plying the waters off Somalia's coastline over the past year, seizing tens of millions of dollars in ransom fees.

The International Maritime Bureau reports that 63 of 199 piracy incidents recorded worldwide in the first nine months of 2008 were in waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

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