China sends warships to Middle East as Houthi Red Sea attacks increase

Fleet includes includes guided-missile destroyer Jiaozuo and missile frigate Xuchang

The Rubymar leaks oil into the Red Sea near the Bab Al Mandeb after an attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels. AP
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China has sent a fleet, including a guided-missile destroyer, to the Gulf of Aden as part of an antipiracy mission and as Houthi attacks on commercial shipping increase in the Red Sea.

The 46th fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy set sail on Wednesday from a military port in the coastal city of Zhanjiang in south China's Guangdong Province to take over an escort mission from the 45th naval fleet in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, Xinhua news agency reported.

It includes the guided-missile destroyer Jiaozuo, the missile frigate Xuchang, and the comprehensive replenishment vessel Honghu.

The fleet has more than 700 officers and soldiers, including dozens of special forces personnel, and two helicopters on board.

Since November, Yemen's Houthi rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters in response to the Israel-Hamas war, putting shipping at risk on a key route for trade for Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Despite a month of US-led air strikes, the Houthis remain capable of launching significant attacks.

The US military said on Friday that a Houthi attack on the freighter Rubymar caused significant damage to the ship and an 18-mile (29km) oil slick.

“The ship is anchored but slowly taking on water,” the US Central Command said in a statement on the Belize-flagged UK-owned cargo ship.

The Rubymar was transporting over 41,000 tons of fertiliser when it was attacked, the statement added.

Yemen’s Houthis targeted the Rubymar in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, and on Monday the group’s military spokesperson, Yahya Sarea, said it was at risk of sinking.

Updated: February 24, 2024, 11:28 AM