China Officially Sets Up Its First Overseas Base in Djibouti
13 July, 2017, 00:22 | Author: Bridget Leonard
Ships carrying personnel from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) were dispatched to set up the base in Djibouti on Tuesday, state news agency Xinhua reported, declining to mention the number of troops that were deployed. After a ceremony in the southern port city of Zhanjiang, military personnel embarked on a voyage to the East African country of Djibouti to establish an outpost "conducive to China's performance of global obligations", state-run media report.
For now, Djibouti will provide a more comprehensive resupply point for the constant stream of warships traveling back and forth from China.
China's military development was about protecting its own security, it said, adding, "It's not about seeking to control the world". The stated aim of the base is to buttress China's peacekeeping efforts on the continent, as well as providing ongoing support to ships under threat from pirates in the region. According to a report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), cooperation with Africa on peace and security is now an "explicit part of Beijing's foreign policy".
Africa is home to an estimated one million Chinese nationals, with many employed in infrastructure projects backed by the Chinese government. To that end, over the past two years, China has cut down its defence spending with the military budget in 2017 standing at 7 percent, the lowest hike in more than 10 years. "It is taking on a global outlook ... and incorporating new concepts such as the protection of overseas interests and open seas protection", said the ECFR report.
The West is concerned that closer ties between Djibouti and China may prompt the African country to impose restrictions on USA access to the Camp Lemonnier base, which the United States uses to collect intelligence on terrorist groups in the region. Djibouti is a small country that covers 23,180 square kilometers of land with a population of 774,389, in the Horn of Africa right at the entrance of the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. In 2015, roughly 900 million metric tons of goods - including nearly 10 percent of the world's maritime oil trade - passed through the Suez Canal and the strait. Djibouti might appear to be an unassuming African state, but its location makes it strategic for military superpowers.
An editorial in the Global Times even went on to say that India should withdraw its troops from the border or the Chinese People's Liberation Army will "kick" them out.
It is unclear when operations will begin at the base, but China is joining the U.S., France, and Japan, in keeping a military presence in the strategically important nation.
"It (China) has cited its desire to play a greater role in peacekeeping, and it has combat troops in both South Sudan and Mali".
But American military leaders have said they don't see it as a threat that will interfere with USA operations there. "This is a fantastic get-rich-quick scheme - to rent bits of desert to foreign powers".
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