BEIJING (AP) -- China has sent 120 troops to South Sudan as part of a 700-member U.N. peacekeeping force, deepening its commitment to the troubled East African nation where two Chinese peacekeepers were killed in fighting over the summer.
Once the entire battalion is deployed, they will replace Chinese peacekeepers currently in place, the second battalion to be deployed to South Sudan to protect civilians, U.N. staff and humanitarian workers, conduct patrols and provide security escorts.
South Sudan has seen continuous fighting since its civil war broke out in December 2013. The more than 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers already in the country have been criticized for failing to protect civilians. China was an early investor in the new state's energy sector, but fighting and corruption have largely prevented it from reaping any benefits.
In July, two Chinese peacekeepers died and five others were wounded after their vehicle was struck with a rocket propelled grenade as fighting swept the capital, Juba.
As part of its push to raise its international profile, China has become the biggest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, with 2,639 currently deployed.
President Xi Jinping said last year that China would also set up a permanent peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops to be deployed whenever necessary.