Defense officials revealed on Wednesday that China's military will likely dispatch troops to take part in the global campaign against Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
China is worried about a growing trend among the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of western China, which has increasingly become a hotbed of support for ISIS. The Turkish army announced last month that of the 913 ISIS terrorists captured illegally crossing the border with Syria since January 2015, the vast majority have been Chinese Muslims.
“The real question is whose side will they be on,” one defense official familiar with internal Chinese discussions on the matter told the Washington Times, regarding China's intentions to take part in the campaign against ISIS.
According to the officials, China will likely join in Russia's airstrike campaign against ISIS which began last September, as opposed to joining the US-led international coalition fighting ISIS. The Russian strikes have also hit Western-backed rebels, sparking tensions.
Last December the Chinese government announced new counter-terror policies allowing overseas activities. On Wednesday, Beijing issued a statement calling for greater military cooperation in the Arab world in confronting terrorism.
China is reportedly highly concerned that ISIS is gaining a stronghold in Xinjiang.
Uyghurs have conducted numerous attacks in the region, including with guns and explosives, and in response the government has cracked down. Uyghurs and human rights groups have accused authorities of repressing the local Muslim population.
ISIS terrorists in Syria issued a rare video last July, calling on Uyghurs in China to come join ISIS in the Middle East. The video was the first public call on Uyghurs to join the jihadist group.