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China Calls on Houthis to Stop Red Sea Attacks and Urges All Parties to Cool Tensions

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China reiterated its call for Houthis militants to stop their attacks on Red Sea shipping, comments that come after Beijing reportedly asked Tehran to help rein in the rebel group.

“We are concerned about rising tensions in the Red Sea,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “We urge the cessation of attacks and harassment against civilian ships, and urge all parties to stop fueling the tensions.”

The comments come after Reuters reported that Chinese officials asked their Iranian counterparts to intervene with the Houthis or risk harming business relations with Beijing. The talks took place at several recent meetings in Beijing and Tehran, according to the report, which cited a diplomat and people in Iran familiar with the matter whom Reuters did not name.

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The issue could come up when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in the coming days in Bangkok. The pair would discuss Taiwan and “issues of mutual interest,” Wang Wenbin said.

China has largely steered clear of the Red Sea issue as the U.S. and U.K. launched airstrikes against the Houthis. That’s despite China importing about half of its crude oil from the Middle East and exporting more to the European Union than the U.S.

China has been critical of the actions by the U.S. and U.K., with Beijing’s top envoy in Brussels saying the Houthi attacks are a “spillover” from the Gaza crisis.

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Two-plus months of the Houthis missile, drone and hijacking attacks against civilian ships have caused the biggest diversion of international trade in decades, pushing up costs for shippers in Asia and North America. 

There are signs that China is growing impatient with the disruption. On Jan. 10, its envoy to the U.N., Zhang Jun, urged an end to the attacks. Then on Thursday, Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian made a similar call at a news briefing.

Iran counts the Houthis along with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon as its “axis of resistance.” The Houthis started launching their strikes after Israel began attacking Hamas in Gaza over the group’s Oct. 7 attack.

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