by WorldTribune Staff, July 13, 2017
China continued the rapid extension of its global military reach this week as ship transporting troops set sail for Djibouti to be stationed at the nation’s first overseas military base.
Djibouti’s strategic position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean and the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal has fueled concern 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.
Indian Ocean shipping lanes carry 80 percent of the world’s oil and a third of the global bulk cargo.
Djibouti also hosts U.S., Japanese and French military bases.
Beijing’s agreement with Djibouti ensures its military presence in the country up until 2026, with a contingent of up to 10,000 soldiers, according to international current affairs magazine The Diplomat.
There has been persistent speculation in diplomatic circles that China would build other such bases, in Pakistan for example, but the government has dismissed this, Reuters reported on July 12.
China’s state-run Global Times said in an editorial 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.
China, which began construction of the base in Djibouti last year, said it will be used to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.
State news agency Xinhua said on July 11 that the ships carrying the Chinese military personnel had departed from Zhanjiang in southern China “to set up a support base in Djibouti.”
The news agency did not say when the base would begin operations.
“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 said.