Reuters’ Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard report that China’s navy has successfully evacuated 225 foreign nationals from Yemen’s southern port of Aden and transported them to Dijbouti. This is the first time that China’s military has rescued foreign nationals from a conflict zone.
Ten different nationalities were among the evacuees picked up on Thursday afternoon from Aden, Yemen’s second city, and transported to Djibouti, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website late Thursday.
The ministry said foreign governments – Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen – had requested China’s help. A spokeswoman said it was the first time China had carried out a specific evacuation of foreign nationals from a danger zone.
[…] Once-reclusive China has become increasingly active in disaster relief and humanitarian aid abroad as its global economic interests widen.
“China has been keen to learn from the experience of other countries on how to evacuate people, especially after Libya,” said one senior Western diplomat in Beijing. “It’s good to see China taking more of an interest in this.” [Source]
Xinhua has more details on the arrival of the arrival of the Chinese frigate in Dijbouti:
Linyi missile frigate, carrying the group of nationals, departed Yemen for Djibouti at 11:30 a.m. local time and arrived after nearly eight hours of sailing.
[…] The evacuees were greeted at the harbor by Djiboutian officials, Chinese ambassador to Djibouti and other diplomats.
Djiboutian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahamoud Ali Youssouf expressed his thanks to China’s help in evacuating foreign nationals, saying the move is very touching.
He added that Djibouti will offer assistance and convenience for ensuing evacuation procedures. [Source]
At The Washington Post, Adam Taylor looks at what the evacuation operation reveals about China’s deepening ties with Yemen and the country’s growing influence in the Middle East and surrounding regions.
In the chaotic web of alliances in Yemen’s new conflict, China’s relatively meek intervention might be overlooked. But it’s a noteworthy sign of China’s growing geopolitical power, which has gained a lot of attention in Sub-Saharan Africa but also extends to the Middle East. And while the evacuation may look like they are cutting their losses, it may actually serve an important strategic purpose to extend China’s reach.
China’s interest in Yemen goes back decades, with Beijing helping with infrastructure developments in Yemen as far back as the 1950s. In recent years, however, the relationship clearly deepened: In 2013, President Xi Jinping welcomed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to Beijing on an official visit and the two nations even vowed military cooperation. Beijing announced a $507 million loan to help develop the port of Aden that year, though some local media reports said that the loan had been suspended this year before it was due to commence.
[…] For China, the logic behind the relationship was clear. Firstly, Yemen oil production could provide energy for China’s booming economy, and China has spent over a decade investing heavily in Yemen’s oil industry. Just as important, however, was Yemen’s geographical location. Not only was Yemen close to the Horn of Africa, where China has a substantial economic footprint, its location by the Gulf of Aden made it a strategic location for the Suez Canal: In fact, the ships that rescued the Chinese nationals this week were part of an international anti-piracy operation in the region that China had been a part of since 2008. [Source]