Ships carrying Chinese military personnel have left Zhanjiang in Guangdong province to set up the country’s first overseas military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, Reuters reports.
Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worries in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
But state news agency Xinhua said the base will be used for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia.
“The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways,” Xinhua added.
China began construction of a logistics base in Djibouti last year that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.
This will be China’s first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.
The People’s Liberation Army Daily said in a front-page commentary this was a landmark move that would increase China’s ability to ensure global peace, especially because it has so many United Nations peacekeepers in Africa and is so involved in anti-piracy patrols.
China would not seek military expansionism or get into arms races no matter what happened, it said.
“These promises will not change because of the construction of the overseas logistics base,” it said.
The state-run Global Times said in an editorial on Wednesday there could be no mistake that this was in fact a military base.
“Certainly this is the People’s Liberation Army’s first overseas base and we will base troops there. It’s not a commercial resupply point. It makes sense there is attention on this from foreign public opinion,” said the paper, which is published by the official People’s Daily.
However, China’s military development was about protecting its own security, it said. “It’s not about seeking to control the world.”
Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts US, Japanese and French bases.
– Contact us at [email protected]