Beijing: Though facing militancy in its restive Xinjiang province, China is unlikely to join the US- led campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria but will provide moral support, the state media reported on Friday.
China may not directly join the anti-ISIS coalition being cobbled by US President Barack Obama, state-run Global Times said.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not directly respond to a question yesterday of whether China will join the coalition, but said: "China is ready to abide by the principle of mutual respect, equality and cooperation in strengthening anti-terrorist cooperation with the rest of the international community and maintaining global peace and stability."
In a major move against the ISIS, which occupies large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria, Obama said in a televised speech that the US will extend airstrikes to Syria and expand operations in Iraq.
He also said the US was building a broad coalition against the ISIS, involving Sunni-led governments in the region and Western allies.
His speech came after reports that US National Security Adviser Susan Rice requested China's support in forming the coalition during her visit to Beijing earlier this week.
"The Chinese expressed interest (in the proposal)," a Washington Post report said.
Dong Manyuan of the China Institute of International Studies told the Global Times that he does not expect China to directly step into the fray, despite some shared interests between the US and China in combating terrorism.
Last week, Iraq's defence ministry released a photo showing a captured Chinese man fighting on behalf of the ISIS.
The Chinese government has yet to confirm the report, but various sources previously suggested that jihadists from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are fighting alongside the ISIS fighters in Syria.
Wu Sike, China's former special envoy to the Middle East said recently that around 100 jihadists from Xinjiang, most of whom are members of the separatist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement are fighting or being trained in the region.
Turmoil in Iraq, a major source of China's oil imports, also posed a threat to Chinese business interests operating in the country.
Zhao Weiming, a professor of Middle East Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, said China may support the US in its fight against the ISIS, but that its support will be limited to the diplomatic level.
"It is not going to participate in any military actions against the ISIS," he said.
However, Zhao said support for fight against the ISIS does not mean that China supports all US military actions carried out in the name of fighting terrorism.
"China opposes the US using anti-terrorism as an excuse to serve its own ends," he said, referring to the US decision to strike Syria.
China along with Russia remains staunch supporters of beleaguered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.