Following rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, China is considering escorting its commercial vessels through the troubled waters under a U.S. proposal as a means of protection, its envoy to the United Arab Emirates said Tuesday.
“If there happens to be a very unsafe situation we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels,” Ambassador Ni Jian told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.
“We are studying the U.S. proposal on Gulf escort arrangements,” China’s embassy added.
Washington has created a maritime security coalition, and it is now reaching out to other nations to join the protection efforts as tensions grow around the Strait of Hormuz, a vital artery that one-third of the world’s oil supply is transported through. The U.S. blamed Iran for two suspected attacks on tankers in the strait last month, but Tehran denies involvement.
President Donald Trump campaigned for other countries, including Japan and China, to protect their own ships in the Gulf in a late June tweet.
China gets 91% of its Oil from the Straight, Japan 62%, & many other countries likewise. So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation. All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2019
China has to be careful, though, because of close energy ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia. At the time of publication, there was nothing definitive showing the U.S. had contacted Beijing about the proposed protection.
Britain has been the only nation to join Washington in the coalition. Many countries in both Europe and Asia are against the coalition because it could drive tensions with Iran even higher as countries try to rescue a flailing nuclear pact that the U.S. is no longer a part of.
While China is still a part of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the country has maintained a smaller role in Middle East conflicts, but that is changing slightly under President Xi Jinping.
“We have the position that all disputes should be sorted by peaceful means and by political discussions, not … military actions,” Ambassador Ni said.
Xi met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Beijing last month, and the two sides signed a deal increasing military and defense cooperation. The agreement could eventually aid in combating terrorism and intelligence sharing in the Middle East.
China has participated in escort missions in the region before as they have a military base in Djibouti.