Mekong patrols

Chinese cargo ships are back on the Mekong River, following a two-month absence and exercises this weekend by China's security forces.

State-run media reports that cargo vessels have returned to the river, a few days after joint military patrols on the Mekong in Thailand, where 13 Chinese sailors were killed in October. The joint patrols are a sign that China may step up its political presence in southeast Asia, a region where the United States very publicly just boosted its own footprint.

The official Xinhua news agency said the joint training and security patrols for the river will include China, Laos and Myanmar, also known as Burma. Xinhua quoted a Chinese sailor as saying the patrols will allow merchants to return to commerce on the river.

"We’re reassured by the government stepping in. We don’t have to trade at the risk of our lives any more," the sailor said.