Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

China Chose Djibouti Strategically as Its First International Military Base

Collaborative efforts A military ship on its way to Djibouti departing from a port in Zhanjiang south China’s Guangdong province. — Xinhua Collaborative efforts A military ship on its way to Djibouti departing from a port in Zhanjiang south China’s Guangdong province. — Xinhua
Christy Curtis | 14 July, 2017, 00:45

China began construction of a logistics base in strategically located Djibouti previous year that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

While Beijing has been careful to downplay the base's significance, casting it as a focal point more for logistics than military maneuvers, an opinion piece in the state-run Global Times emphasizes its unprecedented nature. The plan is to use the base to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia. Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. A USA congressman claimed that a Chinese facility would endanger American military settlements in the region. On Tuesday evening, July 11, the Chinese government news Agency Xinhua reported that the China ships have already gone to Djibouti from the district of Zhanjiang in southern China.

But for many of those watching China's maritime ambitions, the setting up of the overseas base in eastern Africa suggests a fundamental shift in Beijing's stated policy of no "forward deployment".

The People's Liberation Army personnel are to "set up a support base in Djibouti", according to the report. New Delhi considers the Indian ocean as its sphere of influence, referring to anti-piracy patrolling and the freedom of navigation, and a negative attitude towards the revitalization of China in its waters. "The completion and operation of the base will help China better fulfill its worldwide obligations in conducting escorting missions and humanitarian assistance ..."

In the neighboring Somalia fighting did not stop for many years, and Yemen, which is located approximately 20 miles from Djibouti, is now also in a state of conflict.

Xinhua said the establishment of the base was a decision made by the two countries after "friendly negotiations, and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides".

There's one very valuable asset that Djibouti possesses that's of prime concern to global military powers: It's location.

But in the meantime, it also seems to give rise to certain concerns as some foreign media described the Djibouti base as a military outpost of China in the Indian Ocean to serve its interests in a big power competition. The U.S. military maintains over 4,000 troops at the base which is on a 10-year lease. We see a tremendous investment in media on continent to tell that China story to Africans and more exchange programs for African students and engineers to go to China, something that the West used to offer but has decreased since September 11. The vessels are carrying Chinese military troops. China is the main trading partner of Africa since 2008. Beijing is investing in the construction of Railways connecting the African country, including the road between Djibouti and the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, as well as Railways in Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.

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