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China rejects sending troops to Afghanistan

China said on Tuesday it would not send any troops to Afghanistan rejecting recent speculation that Beijing might support the international coalition there.

world Updated: Nov 18, 2008 10:55 IST

China said on Tuesday it would not send any troops to Afghanistan rejecting recent speculation that Beijing might support the international coalition there.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told New York's Council on Foreign Relations on Friday that China could send troops because there was a global consensus that Afghanistan is the "the front line" in the battle against terrorism.

"I think we've got to, we've got to look at that as a possibility for the future," Brown said in answer to an audience question on the possibility of a Chinese deployment. However, in a statement seen on Tuesday on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Web site, spokesman Qin Gang said there had been no change to Beijing's approach to Afghanistan _ or to its policy of sending forces abroad only under United Nations Security Council mandates.

The issue of China sending troops to Afghanistan "simply doesn't exist," Qin said.

As one of the five permanent UN Security Council members, China has grown increasingly active in the body's peacekeeping efforts, having deployed more than 10,000 troops, mainly from engineering companies, to UN missions from Cambodia to Haiti to Sudan. In contrast, the 41-nation coalition helping maintain Afghan security operates under NATO command. Britain has 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, mainly in the violent southern province of Helmand. The US has a total of around 32,000 troops in the country. In the face of an increasingly deadly insurgency, NATO has called for additional forces _ a demand supported by US President-elect Barack Obama.

China might seem like a natural to send troops to Afghanistan because the countries share a narrow border tucked deep into the Karakorum Mountains. Beijing helped ferry arms to anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s and says it is threatened by radical independence groups among its Uighur Turkic Muslim minority whom it says are trained and commanded from outside its borders. In his statement, Qin also said China remained committed to supporting Afghanistan's peace, stability, and development _ a reference to Chinese aid to the country that ranges from building hospitals to donating computers for government offices.