BEIJING (REUTERS) - China has said it helped 10 countries evacuate 225 of their citizens from Yemen, where Iran-allied rebels have seized the two main cities, the first time Beijing has assisted in the evacuation of foreign nationals during an international crisis.
A Chinese missile frigate carried the foreign nationals from the Port of Aden, bound for Djibouti, on Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website late Thursday.
Violence has been spreading across Yemen since last year, when Shi'ite Houthi fighters seized the capital, Sanaa, and effectively removed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition has hit the rebels with air strikes over the past week.
The ministry said the countries - Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen - requested China's help with the evacuation.
China had earlier evacuated 571 of its own nationals, along with eight foreigners who worked for Chinese companies.
Once-reclusive China has become increasingly active in disaster relief and humanitarian aid abroad as its global economic interests widen.
"China has been keen to learn from the experience of other countries on how to evacuate people, especially after Libya," said one senior Western diplomat in Beijing. "It's good to see China taking more of an interest in this."
A low-key diplomatic player in the Middle East despite its reliance on oil from the region, China has voiced concern at the surge in violence in Yemen and called for a political solution.
Beijing drew international praise last year when it sent elite troops to help Ebola-hit Liberia by building a treatment centre and help transport medical supplies.
China also sent a state-of-the-art hospital ship to the Philippines in 2013 after one of the world's biggest typhoons killed thousands.