[SHANGHAI] China's defence ministry has rejected as "malicious speculation" allegations by a US-based group that Chinese peacekeepers had abandoned their posts in South Sudan in July instead of protecting civilians.
Chinese troops are part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, which has been ravaged by conflict between rival forces loyal to the President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
The Center For Civilians in Conflict (Civic) said in a report published last week that Chinese peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) had withdrawn from a civilian protection zone in July after coming under attack.
The Civic report said the Chinese peacekeepers abandoned their posts in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on July 11, a day after a rocket-propelled grenade had exploded near a Chinese armoured personnel carrier, killing two Chinese soldiers.
Yang Yujun, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Defence, said in comments published on the ministry's official website that the report was "malicious speculation".
He said China's peacekeeping forces carried out the instructions of the UN mission in a responsible manner and did its utmost to guarantee the safety of civilians and other peacekeepers.
"Chinese peacekeeping officers and soldiers remained at their posts, quickly organising reinforcements and continuing to implement the mandate of Unmiss while rescuing wounded soldiers," Mr Yang said.
"Currently, the United Nations is investigating the performance of the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Sudan, and making unwarranted accusations against UN peacekeepers and personnel before the findings have been published is irresponsible," he said.