China Sends Off Personnel for First Overseas Military Base

Djibouti is about the size of Wales in the United Kingdom.

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.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing the base would enable China to make "new and greater contributions" to peace in Africa and the world and would benefit Djibouti's economic development.

China joins the US, France and Japan, among others, with permanent bases in Djibouti, a former French colony with a population of less than one million residents.

The base will support China's military operations in Africa and Asia as part of global humanitarian missions, escorting ships to avoid piracy and peacekeeping, the Army said.

"These guarantees won't change due to the development of the overseas coordinations base", it said.

However, state-run Global Times said, there could be no mistake that this was a military base.

According to the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Navy, the decision to establish the base was taken as a result of the friendly relations between Djibouti and China.

For now, Djibouti will provide a more comprehensive resupply point for the constant stream of warships traveling back and forth from China. "It bodes well there is consideration on this from outside general sentiment", said the paper, which is distributed by the official People's Daily, said.

But the "essential goal of China's development of its military might is to protect "China's safety", and is not about seeking to control the world", it said. And while China officially describes the Djibouti base as a logistics facility, this will be China's first overseas naval base. This will be used to resupply Chinese Navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

The People's Liberation Army personnel are to "set up a support base in Djibouti", according to the report.

Beijing also says it will use the base to facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises, as Chinese navy and other services seek to expand their global presence in line with the country's growing economic and political influence.

  • Joey Payne