03 December 2009

Priorities and Challenges in China’s Naval Deployment in the Horn of Africa

Richard Weitz, Priorities and Challenges in China’s Naval Deployment in the Horn of Africa,” Jamestown China Brief, Vol. 9, No. 24, 3 December 2009.

For a few days in mid-November, it looked like the Chinese government was prepared to take the unprecedented step to lead a multinational security operation involving the armed forces of Russia, the United States, the EU, and other countries. Following the seizure of yet another Chinese commercial vessel by Somali-based pirates, Beijing convened a two-day conference to enhance international coordination of the many foreign fleets currently seeking to defend shipping around Somalia from pirate attack. Participants included senior navy officers from EU and NATO countries along with representatives from India, Japan, Russia, and other navies whose warships have joined the maritime patrols around the Horn of Africa.

According to some media reports, at a subsequent meeting of the Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE) group, which includes representatives of the some three dozen navies currently participating in the maritime counter-piracy mission, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) delegates expressed a willingness to integrate their operations more closely with the other navies on the mission. In addition, they reportedly told officials from the European Union Naval Force for Somalia (EU Navfor) that they wished to assume more of a leadership role in the multilateral maritime patrols. In particular, the PLAN members suggested they favored rotating the SHADE co-chairmanship among the other participating navies so that China could serve in that role. Thus far, these monthly meetings have been co-chaired by the EU Navfor and the multinational Combined Maritime Force led by the United States. …