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Chinese naval fleet on mission near Red Sea raises eyebrows in MidEast

A Chinese naval mission aims to “take over an escort mission from the 45th naval fleet in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia." Meanwhile, the Greek government also announced participation in the EU convoy operation in the Red Sea

A Chinese naval mission consisting of a missile frigate and guided-missile destroyer left the port of Zhanjiang in southern China’s Guangdong province last week. It is described in Chinese media as the 46th fleet of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

The Chinese Navy's 46th Escort Task Force set sail from Zhanjiang Military Port in Guangdong on Feb. 21 to head to the Gulf of Aden in Somali waters.
It is supposed to “take over an escort mission from the 45th naval fleet in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia.” - Photo Xhinua.

It has three ships: the guided-missile destroyer Jiaozuo, the missile frigate Xuchang, and the logistics vessel Honghu. This includes 700 crew, with “special forces personnel” and two helicopters. Xinhua media in Chinese noted that “in preparation for the mission, the fleet conducted meticulous analysis and made detailed plans.

It also carried out targeted training for scenarios such as the rescue of hijacked commercial ships, the combating of terrorists and pirates, and the underway replenishment.”

The movement of the Chinese fleet has raised some eyebrows in the region. China has participated in missions in the region for years and has also conducted drills with the Russians and Iranians. However, the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have raised tensions at sea.

Chinese role in Gulf to watched carefully

The Chinese role will be watched carefully in the region and also in the Gulf. China has sought to expand its influence in the Gulf in recent years. However, it is not clear if China is ready to try to reduce tensions off the coast of Yemen. Currently, the Houthis have said they are targeted vessels linked to the US, UK, Israel, and other countries. The Houthis have attempted to prevent angering China, Russia, or Iran, which backs the Houthis.

Al-Ain media in the UAE had an extensive article on the Chinese fleet on February 27. The article analyzes China’s goals as well as the mission. It argues that China is seeking influence in the region. The analysts quoted in the article also discuss whether China may seek to confront the West in the region using its naval mission.

“The first of these connotations is that China has a naval base in Djibouti, which means that sending new naval forces amounts to strengthening a previous military presence in the region.”

However, an analyst also noted that “China wants to prove its presence in the face of Washington and takes into account that there are several other powers and countries sending Naval forces to the Red Sea region and the Gulf of Aden.” Therefore, China’s role is being closely watched this year amid the tensions in the region.

Meanwhile, the Greek government also announced participation in the EU convoy operation in the Red Sea

A frigate stationed at the Salamina naval base will head to Red Sea waters in the coming days after the Greek government approved its participation in an EU convoy operation in the Red Sea, a Greek government spokesman said Feb. 26 local time.

Since the outbreak of the new Israeli-Palestinian conflict in October last year, the Houthis in Yemen have repeatedly attacked ships in Red Sea waters to demonstrate their support for Palestine. The United States and the United Kingdom have continued to launch attacks against Houthi targets, and the Red Sea security crisis continues to escalate.

On the 19th of this month, the Council of the European Union announced the launch of the escort operation in the Red Sea and Gulf. As expected, the EU escort operation will not be involved in striking Houthi targets. At the moment, Belgium, Italy, Germany, France and other countries have also expressed their intention to send several warships to the Red Sea.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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