By SUA Staff
Last month, reports about the possibility of a large scale military exercise that included Iran, Russia, and China to be held off the coast of Syria was exposed. Today, reports of at least two Chinese warships passing through the Suez Canal have been released yet a third ship exists and its location remains unknown. Are the Chinese headed to Syria?
Crossing Adds to Speculation About Massive Naval Drill
Adding to the international forces in the area, Egypt is reporting that a Chinese warship has crossed through the Suez Canal today into the Mediterranean, presumably en route to war-torn Syria.
The report adds additional credence to last month’s reports that a massive multi-country naval drill was going to be held amongst Syria’s allies off their coast, with Russian, Chinese and Iranian ships expected to take part.
Before anyone speculates too hard about this new discovery, it is critical to understand more details about the Chinese warships in question.
First and foremost, both known Chinese warships belong to the 11th Chinese anti-piracy task group which just handed over operations in the Gulf of Aden to the 12th Chinese anti-piracy task group. The first naval ship is a Chinese LUHU class destroyer named QINGDAO. The second one is a JIANGKAI-II class frigate named YANTAI.
Both ships reportedly went straight to the Dardanelles and the Marmara Sea headed for Istanbul, Turkey. After their port visit, they were reportedly to continue into the Black Sea for more visits at some undisclosed destinations–likely Russia. The Dardanelles and the Marmara Sea are nowhere close to Syria. In naval terms, these types of trips conducted after operations are called “Goodwill Tours.”
A third ship assigned to the 11th Chinese anti-piracy group is a supply ship named WEISHAN HU. That ship’s location is unknown at this time, however it is assumed to still be somewhere in the Gulf of Aden, awaiting the return of the two aforementioned seafaring vessels. Not knowing the exact location of the WEISHAN HU is the most disturbing piece of data behind this report—especially knowing it is a supply ship.
Russia has been active around Syrian waters and there is little doubt that Russia has been doing more than just monitoring activities conducted by pro-Assad militants. Some reports have gone as far as claiming Russia is or has actually provided material aid to the Assad regime in Syria. It is very easy for naval vessels to be at sea and resupply one another undetected. Knowing the Russians are also active in the Gulf of Aden, there is a possibility that China and Russia are conducting seaborne supply swaps there with Russia later transporting supplies to Tartus, Syria.
If this were the case, China is doing its best to stay off the international radar by supplying pro-Assad forces in Syria through Russia’s proxy. But again, this is all just some mere brainstorming.
The official Iranian news agency FARS reported this in June:
According to informed sources, 90,000 forces from the four countries will take part in the land and sea wargames due to be held in Syria.
Ground, air and sea forces as well as air defense and missile units of the four countries will take part in the exercises.
Sources also said that Egypt has acceded to grant passage to 12 Chinese warships to sail through the Suez Canal, adding that the military convoy is due to dock at the Syrian harbors in the next two weeks.
There is speculation this military exercise will not occur as reported, yet the ships are on the way, leading one to ponder: was the whole thing just a ruse to allow China to ship supplies into the Syrian Regime’s hands?