Beijing: China has deployed women soldiers for the first time in its 700-strong infantry battalion to South Sudan to bolster a UN peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn country.
The infantry battalion will have 13 women soldiers, official media here reported.
This is the first time Chinese women soldiers will be taking part in an armed operation in a UN mission.
The battalion to be sent early next year will be stationed in Juba, South Sudan's capital and largest city, under the command of the UN.
It has 121 officers and 579 soldiers.
The unit will protect civilians, UN personnel and humanitarian aid workers.
It will also guard and patrol key facilities and defend them in the event of hostile acts, state-run Global Times reported.
According to the Chinese Defence Ministry, China is the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, with a deployment of over 27,000 military personnel around the world.
While China deployed its troops under the aegis of UN, it stayed away in world trouble ports like Iraq and Afghanistan, evoking criticism from US President Barrack Obama who said in August that China is a free rider as it derived economic benefits in trouble spots.
"They are free riders. And they have been free riders for the last 30 years and it has worked really well for them," Obama said in an interview to the US media.
Chinese official media hit back saying China has always played the peaceful role of a "collaborator" and a "builder" and termed US an "intruder" and "outcast" for following interventionist policy.