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China says 8,000-strong UN peacekeeping standby force ready

BEIJING (AP) -- China said Thursday it has assembled a standby force of thousands of United Nations peacekeepers, furthering its leading role in the global body's efforts to tamp down conflicts worldwide.

Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told reporters at a monthly briefing that the 8,000-member force had passed an assessment last month approved by U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix. That fulfills a pledge made at the U.N. three years ago by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China provides the most peacekeepers of any permanent U.N. Security Council member and is the second-largest contributor to the operations' multibillion dollar budget, at slightly over 10 percent. The United States is the largest contributor to peacekeeping, but deploys only 50 officers to U.N. missions.

China has also trained more than 1,500 peacekeepers from more than a dozen countries, Ren said.

"The Chinese military is fulfilling its responsibility to safeguard world peace and building a community of shared future for mankind with concrete actions," Ren said. China was ready to both increase the number of peacekeepers it contributes as well as their particular skill sets, Ren said.

The U.N. currently runs 15 peacekeeping missions, the bulk of them in Africa.

With around 2 million members, China's People's Liberation Army is the world's largest standing military force and the country's defense budget is the second highest after the United States.

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