March 31, 2016 / 10:23 AM / in 2 years

China sets up unit to coordinate overseas military moves

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday it has set up a dedicated unit to coordinate its “non-war” activities overseas like evacuations from conflict zones, as it seeks to play a greater role in the world.

Soldiers from the honour guards practice amid heavy haze near Tiananmen Gate before a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, in this October 24, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China, the world’s second-largest economy, has sent its navy to take part in anti-piracy patrols in the waters off Somalia and helped evacuate its citizens and other foreigners from Yemen.

The new Overseas Action Department has been established as part of broader military reforms, ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular monthly news briefing.

“In recent years, as our national and military strength have increase, the Chinese military has many times participated in overseas military actions, proactively fulfilling our international responsibilities and obligations,” Yang said.

The department’s main mission is to plan, coordinate and enact “non-war” overseas action, such as peacekeeping missions, evacuations and joint drills, he added.

But any of these missions will always respect the United Nations charter and international norms, to help preserve peace and stability, Yang said.

China last year passed a counter-terrorism law that allows the military to venture overseas on anti-terror missions, though experts have said it would face big practical and diplomatic problems if it ever wanted to do this.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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