China is poised to embark on its first naval combat mission in 500 years—to take on pirates off the coast of Somalia, reports the Financial Times. Any patrols launched would be closely monitored by the US, Russian and British navies, concerned about China's growing military power.
One Western naval attaché said forces already engaged in anti-piracy operations hope the Chinese navy will at least co-ordinate with them, but he isn't optimistic about much more. "That they would put themselves under somebody else's command, for example become part of the European Union's Atlanta operation, seems unimaginable," he added. More than 30 ships have been attacked by pirates based in Somalia and up to 19 captured, including a Chinese fishing vessel this week.