BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhuanet) -- China's first peacekeeping mission involving combat-ready troops has been deployed to South Sudan. It has held an inauguration ceremony for its headquarters in the capital Juba. This is the first time China has sent peacekeeping infantry to any task zone since it first took part in peacekeeping operations in 1990.
The new base for the first ever Chinese infantry battalion sent abroad for a UN peacekeeping mission will be home to 700 troops and 350 engineers, medical and other non-combat personnel while they serve in South Sudan, a country deep in crisis since December 2013.
China's ambassador to South Sudan and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, joined the troops for the base's opening ceremony.
"This is the first time China has sent peacekeeping infantry troops to Africa, which shows that China has participated in the African peace and security affairs constructively and that China's peacekeeping task in South Sudan has entered a new period," said Chinese ambassador to South Sudan Ma Qiang.
"I am pleased to note that the first ever Chinese infantry battalion in the history of UN peacekeeping which is 700 men and women strong was deployed to south Sudan and part of them are standing in front of us. No doubt in recognition of the very big challenges faced by this country," said Head of UN Mission in South Sudan Ellen Margrethe Loej.
Chinese peacekeepers are in charge of five out of 11 responsibility zones in Juba.
Every two hours, a patrol team with contact commanders and medics is deployed to maintain safety in 20 streets in the city.
Unlike China's previous peacekeeping support missions, this unit is allowed to fight.
"This peacekeeping infantry battalion will conduct more missions, such as protecting civilians and UN organs and staff, guarding, patrolling, defending and escorting," said Yang Li, instructor of Chinese Peacekeeping Infantry Battalion.
With the long-term interests of the South Sudanese people and regional peace and stability at stake, China has reiterated many times that the conflict cannot be resolved militarily.
The world's newest state, which declared independence from Sudan in January 2011, was plunged into civil war less than two years later. Thousands have died since then, and nearly 2 million people have fled their homes.