Djibouti: Chinese troops depart for first overseas military base

Ships carrying Chinese military personnel have left for the country's first base in Djibouti

A fleet of Chinese ships setting sail on Wednesday - -on a mission to to set up Beijing's first overseas military base.

China's defence ministry said that a ceremony was held at a naval pier in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia.

This deploying of troops in Djibouti comes amid Beijing claiming that military expansion is not their intention and they are not in the arms race. "This base can support Chinese Navy to go farther, so it means a lot", said the paper.

"It's not about seeking to control the world", said the editorial. This forms part of China's strategic intentions, Naidu says, with the country wanting to become more embedded in these regions. After all, establishing its presence in the East African nation would aid China's long-standing antipiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, alongside humanitarian projects in Africa and western Asia.

The base is generally meant to "assist China's contribution to peace and stability both in Africa and worldwide", according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Making peace The ships left Zhanjiang in southern China for Djibouti on Tuesday
Making peace The ships left Zhanjiang in southern China for Djibouti on Tuesday

In a bid to win influence over the government and its people in recent years, both China and Saudi Arabia have poured vast amounts of money into the country to support infrastructure projects, education, and training programs. "It will also help promote economic and social development in Djibouti".

In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen.

But while China may downplay the importance of moving the amphibious transport dock and mobile landing platform vessels to Djibouti, the significance of establishing its first permanent overseas military facilities in such a strategic location is undeniable.

"This particular piece of geography is very, very important to our strategic interests", Waldhauser said in joint appearance with US Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Edward Paice, director of the London-based Africa Research Institute, said a base in Djibouti makes a lot of sense for China, just as it does for Japan or the US. In fact, as NPR's Renee Montagne noted when China broke ground on the base previous year, the USA has its own major base in the same port city where China is establishing its military presence.




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