BEIJING – China has formally launched its first overseas naval facility in Djibouti, an East African nation that is already hosting America’s only expeditionary Marine base in Africa, as the Communist nation’s rapidly modernising military extends its global reach.
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Five Chinese formations and Djibouti’s Three Services Honor Guard took part in the launch ceremony on Tuesday, the People’s Daily reported, referring to the base as “the logistics facility.” The event marked the 90th anniversary of the Chinese military.
The base is set to enable China to better support its patrols in waters off Somalia and Yemen and carry out international humanitarian operations as well as naval exercises, according to the newspaper.
More than 300 people attended the ceremony, including deputy Chinese naval commander Tian Zhong and Djibouti’s defense minister, according to Chinese state radio.
Earlier in July, several Chinese Navy ships carrying personnel from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) set sail from their home bases to Djibouti.
This year, the Chinese military industry commissioned China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, with the second carrier of the same class on the way in coming years. According to the Chinese press, the Navy is also expecting a third carrier, the nuclear-powered Type 003, to enter service soon.
The Chinese Navy also relies heavily on principal surface ships, including destroyers and frigates, to defend Beijing’s interests.
In mid-July, the Type 052D missile destroyer Changsha, missile frigate Yungchen, and auxiliary ship Luomahu arrived in the Baltic Sea for joint exercises with the Russian Navy.
The US, Japan and France also have military bases in Djibouti, a tiny barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. It is situated at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal.
China’s deal with Djibouti allows the presence of up to 10,000 soldiers in the country until 2026.
China in Africa
China has ramped up investment in Africa, as well as rapidly modernised its military in recent years.
In 2015, at a major summit with African nations, China pledged to invest $60bn (then £40bn) in Africa’s development.
The Asian country has invested in a railway that connects Djibouti to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
In return, Africa supplies China with natural resources, minerals and energy.