China Takes Command of U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in Western Sahara

China Takes Command of U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in Western Sahara

NEW YORK -- A Chinese general was appointed to command a United Nations peacekeeping mission for the first time on Aug. 27. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Maj. Gen. Zhao Jingmin to lead the mission in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, where U.N. peacekeepers have monitored a ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, an armed separatist group, since 1991. Zhao will replace Gen. Kurt Mosgaard of Denmark, who completed his tour of duty Sept. 3, according to U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas.

Zhao has an impressive biography and his appointment is not expected to generate any controversy in the Security Council. A U.N. press release notes that Zhao has previously served as an observer in Western Sahara and as part of the U.N. mission to Iraq and Kuwait following the first Gulf War. He also speaks fluent French and English.

The appointment of a Chinese general to lead a U.N. peacekeeping mission reflects China's growing role in U.N. peacekeeping operations. However, the fact that Zhao will command a relatively low-profile mission also demonstrates the current limitations of that role.

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