Official Chinese media are reporting that China will send ships to help combat piracy off the coast of Somalia.  This comes one day after a senior Chinese official told the United Nations Security Council China is more than ready to help. 

The piracy in the oceans around Somalia has become so bad that even China has been prompted to join the international effort to try to stop it.

A front-page report in the official English-language China Daily newspaper, Wednesday, quotes an unnamed source as saying, "There will be a significant peacekeeping operation" in Somalia.

The report says China is ready to send a naval mission to fight pirates in Somali waters.   But it offers no details as to the scale of the Chinese mission or when it will be sent to Africa.

The Chinese ships would be joining an international flotilla, which includes vessels from the United States, Russia, Denmark and Italy.

Tuesday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told the United Nations China is "seriously considering" the mission, which would be an unprecedented deployment of the country's navy.

The official Xinhua News Agency quotes Somali Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama as welcoming China's participation in the fight against pirates.  The Somali official is also reported as saying his country will do its best to secure the release of captured Chinese sailors and vessels.

Xinhua says Somali pirates are still holding captive one Chinese vessel and 17 Chinese nationals.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao says China supports international efforts to fight Somali piracy.

Liu says China will strengthen cooperation on the Somalia pirate problem, in accordance with international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Rampant piracy in the busy Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, near Somalia, has become a growing problem, driving up insurance costs and forcing ships to take alternative routes.

The attacks also are targeting ships from an increasing number of countries. 

China has traditionally kept its troops close to home, reflecting its consistent policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country.  But, as China's economic clout has grown, it has become increasingly involved in peacekeeping operations around the world, including in Haiti and in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.