China missiles' Syria success to boost image: Media

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese-made missiles have been used to shoot down two Syrian army helicopters, state media reported on Thursday, adding that their performance could boost the international sales appeal of Chinese weapons.

The Global Times, a tabloid with close links to the ruling Communist Party, said a pair of videos posted on the Internet by Free Syrian Army rebels showed two Mi-8/17 helicopters being shot down by Chinese shoulder-launched missiles.

The paper said it was not known how the rebels, who have been fighting to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for the past two years, obtained the missiles.

But it said the success of the FN-6 weapons, which it said were developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, could lift the overall image of China's defence products.

"In regards to export prospects, Chinese weapons need to engage in more conflicts to prove their value," Mr Daniel Tong, identified as the founder of the Chinese Military Aviation website, told the newspaper.

"The kills are proof that the FN-6 is reliable and user-friendly, because rebel fighters are generally not well-trained in operating missile systems," he added.

Chinese weapons have not been tested in battle to the same extent as those built by the United States and Russia, and publicity surrounding the shootdowns will raise the profile of China's air defence products, the paper cited him as saying.

But he lamented the loss of life in the conflict and said: "Any bloodshed is regrettable."

The Global Times said Chinese missiles have shot down targets in several other conflicts, though it added the Syrian conflict is the first time such a success has been recorded on video.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation refused to comment on the report when contacted by AFP. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing that she had not seen it.

China and Russia, both members of the UN Security Council, have joined together to block resolutions that would have introduced sanctions against Assad's regime.

At a press conference on Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said only "dialogue and negotiations" could end the Syrian war and that China was "distressed and concerned" over the "bleeding and suffering" of Syria's people.

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