The governments of China and Israel have voiced their support for President Barack Obama’s military campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants, although Beijing’s blessing came with a message to respect the territorial integrity of all countries.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters Friday her government believes the international community should work together to fight terrorism. Hua added that sovereignty must be respected in the global fight against terrorism.
Given Beijing’s official policy of non-interference, it is unlikely that China will join any international coalition against Islamic State militants. However, Biejing is highly dependent on Iraqi oil to keep its economic engine running, making China’s qualified support noteworthy,
“Beijing will not oppose the American efforts to build this coalition because the Chinese leadership understands the Islamic state will impact China as well, said Joseph Chang, professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong. “China has been opposing terrorism, separatism and religious separatism.”
China’s support for the coalition against IS is fueled by its own concerns about domestic terrorism. This has been an unprecedented year for terrorist attacks in several Chinese cities. The government blames those attacks on Muslim separatists from the country’s Uighur ethnic minority in restive Xinjiang Province, and has carried out a security crackdown that rights groups have called heavy-handed.
“Religious extremism, terrorism and separatism have had an increasing impact on China, as China’s problems with its ethnic minorities have deteriorated, especially in Xinjiang,” added Chang.
IS militants have threatened China and other countries for allegedly “seizing” the rights of Muslims within their borders. The group has also claimed that Chinese citizens have joined their ranks.
On Thursday, Obama received strong backing from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“All civilized countries should stand together in the fight against radical terrorism that sweeps across the Middle East, that sweeps across the world,” Netanyahu said.
According to Obama, a coalition of 40 nations have already joined together to degrade and ultimately destroy IS militants wherever they exist. Among them are ten Arab governments, who announced their support following a meeting in Saudi Arabia attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Netanyahu said the fight against “Islamist terrorism” has spawned new alliances in the Middle East. Many Arab governments, he added, have realized that extremists from the Sunni branch of Islam pose as great a threat as those from the Shi’ite branch — a reference to the Shi’ite-dominated governments of Iran and Syria, along with their Lebanon-based Hezbollah allies.
“The two sides are of the same coin,” he said. “My policy is: weaken both of them and, most importantly, don’t allow any of them to get weapons of mass destruction.”
Shannon Van Sant reported from Beijing and Scott Bobb reported from Jerusalem.