Chinese arms ship called back to China after protests (Lead, changing dateline)

April 22nd, 2008 - 7:50 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, April 22 (DPA) The China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) Tuesday called home a ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe after African ports refused to allow the ship to dock. Speaking to the reporters here, foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu defended the delivery as “a normal military product trade.”

“The relevant contract was signed last year. It has nothing to do with the current situation in Zimbabwe,” she added, saying that “nobody should politicize” the issue.

“I would like to stress that the Chinese government has been prudent and cautious with regard to military product export. One of our important principles is not to interfere with the internal affairs of importing countries,” Jiang said further.

The ship An Yue Jiang carrying 77 tonnes of weapons and ammunition could not dock at African harbours due to a call for a boycott of the ship by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

Earlier today, a Namibian rights organization had been preparing Tuesday to go to court to try to stop the Chinese freighter from offloading at Walvis Bay port in Namibia.

Port control in Walvis Bay told DPA they had received no request from the vessel to refuel or dock at the port so far and had no idea of its whereabouts.

Speculation in Namibia was rife about whether the ship, which hightailed it out of Durban harbour after a court there barred the transport of the cargo across South Africa, would try to access Zimbabwe via the Atlantic coast port of Walvis Bay in Namibia or the harbours of Namibe or Luanda in Angola.

Namibia also has close ties with both Zimbabwe and China dating back to its liberation struggle that brought about independence from South Africa in 1990.

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