Thursday, June 12, 2008

China proposes disaster relief cooperation plan at 10+3 workshop 2008-06-12

  SHIJIAZHUANG, June 12 (Xinhua) -- China has proposed a tentative plan of standard operating procedure (SOP) for cooperation on disaster relief by armed forces of the ASEAN plus China, Japan, the Republic of Korea ("10+3") at a workshop held in a north China city Thursday.

  The proposal drew great interest from the participants of other countries, while differences on the understanding of some issues still existed, according to the Field Army Commanding Academy of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Shijiazhuang, sponsor of the workshop, which opened on Tuesday.

  Chen Shengwu, a colonel with the academy, said the making of the SOP was of great significance to strengthening the 10+3 disaster relief cooperation in the way of giving full play to the role of the armed forces in regional disaster relief.

  He said the SOP of international disaster relief by armed forces should be based on the SOP of the mission unit. This means the unit that carries out or is ready to carry out the tasks of international disaster relief.

  He said the SOP of mission units of 10+3 armed forces in international disaster relief should serve for the relief of massive natural disasters of various kinds.

  The SOP should set principles guiding the action of mission units. Assistance missions must observe humanitarianism, show respect of the host nation's sovereignty and have no string attached with.

  Mission units deployed in the disaster-hit areas should be submitted to the command of the disaster-hit country, and accept its coordination.

  Mission units personnel should wear uniforms of their own countries with identification that stands out, and not carry weapons. They should respect the local religion, custom and convention, and abide by the 10+3 regulations on disaster relief cooperation.

  The mission units should also strengthen contacts and coordination with the United Nations humanitarian organizations and other international assistance organizations, said Chen.

  He said each of the 10+3 countries should establish special liaison departments in charge of providing statistics of the ability and assets of mission unit of each country. The 10+3 countries should frequently exchange information on the capacity building and assets of each other's mission unit and report to the coordinating body.

  According to Chen, China attaches great importance to the making of international disaster relief SOP. As a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), China has jointly drafted out a set of principles guiding ARF disaster relief with Indonesia and joined in the amendment of the ARF Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief SOP (HADR SOP).

  China also paid close attention to the making of the ASEAN Standby Arrangements and Standard Operating Procedures (SASOP) and made efforts to promote the making of 10+3 SOP.

  According to Cui Yafeng, deputy head of the Shijiazhuang Academy who chaired the workshop, the foreign participants showed great interest on the proposal by the Chinese side. They also put forward some constructive ideas.

  He said differences, however, existed on the concept of mission units and some other aspects, so it was yet to reach consensus.

  The three-day workshop, held at a time when China and Myanmar were suffering from the massive quake and cyclone disasters respectively, had somehow promoted the 10+3 nations to speed up the pace of enhancing disaster relief cooperation.

  Qian Lihua, director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Chinese Defense Ministry, told reporters the number and ranking of officers attending this year's workshop both exceeded that of last year. He believed the workshop would help promote the role of 10+3 armed forces in domestic and regional disaster relief.

  Qian expressed his appreciation of foreign countries' assistance and donations to China for the quake disaster. The workshop also discussed on the coordinating mechanism for 10+3 disaster relief by armed forces, gathering constructive proposals by all sides.

  The participants also watched a field drill Wednesday by the Bethune Military Medical College in Shijiazhuang, a 70-year old college created by Dr. Norman Bethune. The devoted Canadian doctor worked in China during the second World War. The college also joined in the disaster relief in Sichuan Province.

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