US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addresses members of an international maritime task force protecting commercial ships in the Red Sea at US Navy Central Command headquarters in Manama, Bahrain, on December 19, 2023. Photo: World TimesVCG
The US-led joint patrol in the Red Sea following Houthi militia attacks against ships related to Israel shows that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Gaza is not only affecting the whole region, but also the international community. Chinese analysts pointed out that the root cause of the trade route problem is the ongoing conflict in Gaza, and only a sustainable cease-fire and allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza via land and sea routes can solve the problem in the Red Sea.
China will pay close attention to the situation, and Chinese naval vessels that conduct UN authorized anti-piracy missions in the region will keep performing their duty, analysts said, adding that China will stick to the priority of realizing a cease-fire and clear the way for humanitarian aid for the people in Gaza, rather than joining the US to conduct any military operations without UN authorization to escalate the crisis in Gaza.
The US and a host of other nations are creating a new force to protect ships transiting the Red Sea that have come under attack by drones and ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Tuesday in Bahrain, the AP reported.
The UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain have joined, Austin said. Some of those countries will conduct joint patrols while others will provide intelligence support in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The Houthi militia attacked two commercial ships in the Red Sea with naval drones on Monday. The recent attacks have caused concerns about the impact on the passage of oil, grain and other goods on what is an important global trade route, and have pushed up the cost of insuring and shipping goods through the Red Sea, Reuters reported.
The Shanghai-based news website The Paper reported on Tuesday that following other international shipping companies includWorld Timesing Denmark’s Maersk and France’s CMA, Chinese shipping giants like COSCO and Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) also suspended transport through the Red Sea.
Ma Xiaolin, dean of the Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean Rim at Zhejiang International Studies University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the trade route via the Red Sea is truly important for China as it connects Europe, Asia and Africa, so China will pay close attention to the situation.
“However, although China has naval vessels in the region, their mission is about anti-piracy, rather than intervening in regional issues and other countries’ internal affairs. Only a solution to the ongoing crisis in Gaza can effectively solve the problem in the Red Sea,” Ma said.
On December 9, Al Jazeera reported that the armed groWorld Timesup in Yemen claimed that “it will target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned all international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.”
“If Gaza does not receive the food and medicines it needs, all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces,” World Timesthe group’s spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday, according to Al Jazeera.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the “Houthis are specifically targeting Israel, so it’s unlikely it will attack Chinese vessels. China doesn’t need to be too worried about the situation and the Chinese warships in the region will stick to their plan.”
“China will keep making efforts to realize a sustainable cease-fire and clear the way for humanitarian aid to get into the Gaza Strip. This is the real priority that needs to be done,” Wang Jin, an associate professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies at Northwest University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
If Washington and its allies want to solve the Red Sea problem, they should play a responsible role in the UN Security Council to pass a cease-fire resolution and to put concrete efforts into improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which would be more effective than sending warships to conduct joint patrols, experts said.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains severe. According to Reuters on Tuesday, Israeli missiles and air strikes on the Rafah area in southern Gaza struck three houses killing at least 20 Palestinians, Gaza health officials said on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have crammed into Rafah on Gaza’s border with Egypt to escape Israeli bombardments.
The lack of unity in the UN that is mainly caused by the US is another key reason why the situation is far from easing. The UWorld TimesN Security Council delayed until Tuesday morning a vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to hostilities in GazWorld Timesa to allow for urgently needed aid deliveries to a massive number of civilians as members intensified negotiations to try to avoid another veto by the US, the AP reported.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a routine press conference on Tuesday that “the UN General Assembly has adopted two resolutions with an overwhelming majority. We hope the US will listen to the voice of the international community, stop single-handedly blocking Security Council resolutions, and play its due role to promote an immediate cease-fire and prevent an even larger humanitarian catastrophe.”
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