WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) - The international community needs to attack pirate leaders on land and not just their ships, a top Chinese general said on Wednesday, in the latest call for a bolder response to hijackings at sea.
“For counter-piracy campaigns to be effective, we should probably move beyond the ocean and crash their bases on the land,” said General Chen Bingde, the chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army.
China is among the countries fighting increasingly aggressive Somali pirates, who are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden and increasingly in the Indian Ocean.
Earlier this year, a U.S. Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Mark Fox, said he believed some of the pre-emptive techniques used to battle terrorism should be used to combat pirates, particularly the aggressive approach to tracking terrorist financing.
Chen appeared to be favoring an even more aggressive approach.
“It is important that we target not only the operators, those on the small ships or crafts conducting the hijacking activities, but also the figureheads,” Chen said.
“The ransoms, the captured materials and money flow somewhere else. The pirates (on ships) ... get only a small part of that.”
Chen made the comments on a visit to the United States, where he and U.S. military leaders agreed to conduct joint maritime exercises, including in the Gulf of Aden.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Eric Walsh