by Xinhua Writer Gu Zhenqiu
UNITED NATIONS, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations' peacekeeping chief hailed the contribution of Chinese soldiers to world peace, calling China "a firmer supporter" for the world body's peacekeeping effort and "an active participant" in those operations.
"I think it's very important that China is the first troop contributor amongst the P5 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council)," Herve Ladsous, the UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, told Xinhua Thursday in an interview, adding that China is also the largest troop-contributing P5 nation.
"It shows the commitment of China to the ideals and values of the United Nations, (and) to the principles of peacekeeping," said Ladsous, who has been overseeing UN's peacekeeping effort since September 2011.
"I think that it's very important that they do that."
"It also shows the commitment of China to (the efforts) to try and alleviate and mitigate the sufferings of the people who are caught in conflict," he said.
China began its participation in the UN peacekeeping operations in 1990, when Beijing sent five military observers to the Middle East.
China has over the years contributed a total of more than 20,000 peacekeepers. At present, more than 2,000 Chinese peacekeepers are serving in 10 UN peacekeeping operations.
In late 2013, China, for the first time, dispatched security forces to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.
Beijing also plans to raise the number of its troops served in the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, thereby contributing more to peace and stability in the world's youngest country.
When Ladsous visited China back in October, he traveled to the northeastern city of Harbin to meet Chinese troops that were preparing to be deployed to the UN mission in Mali.
"I was very much impressed by the level of the training and by the good equipment also," he said.
He said that he met the same Chinese soldiers under the UN flag in Mali just three weeks ago when he was visiting the West African nation.
"I went to Gao and I saw the Chinese military engineers and also I especially visited the field hospital that you have in Gao. It is, I must say, very remarkable, very well-equipped and people are really up to a high standard," he said. "And of course I thanked them for their contribution."
Ladsous said that he has also met Chinese peacekeepers in such countries as Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire.
"I thank them in particular for what I think is very important, that especially the medical units (which) do as much outreach as they can to the local population."
In these warring African countries, he said, "people are trying to free themselves from conflict, from ethnic, religious fighting and of course they hope for a better future," he said.
Ladsous said: "I think that it's very important that China can show that 'Yes, a (better) future is possible!'"
Over the past 24 years, at least 16 Chinese peacekeepers, including eight military personnel, lost their lives in their missions.
"I would like to express much regret and sad condolences to the loved ones and of course, also to the government and to the leadership of the People's Liberation Army," he said. "I ask you to pass on my condolences to the families and friends."