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Published: Thu, July 13, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Djibouti: Chinese troops head for Africa to open first foreign military base

Djibouti: Chinese troops head for Africa to open first foreign military base

China dispatched members of the People's Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti to man and initiate the rising Asian biggest and first overseas military base on Tuesday, July 11. Ships carrying soldiers and other personnel have departed from Zhanjiang, southern China, and are headed to a new base in the east African nation of Djibouti.

Djibouti is also a home to one of American's military operations overseas and is based in Camp Lemonnier, Africa.

In any case, China's military advancement was tied in with ensuring its own particular security, it said. This forms part of China's strategic intentions, Naidu says, with the country wanting to become more embedded in these regions.

"China has been deploying naval ships to waters off Somalia in the Gulf of Aden to conduct escorting missions since 2008", said Geng. When China staged a rescue operation to evacuate its citizens and others from Yemen in April, Chinese personnel took them to Djibouti.

Mattis also discussed the issue of China's growing influence in Djibouti with officials of the African country. Chinese maritime patrol aircraft stationed at airfields in Djibouti can also extend China's reach farther into the Indian Ocean. To that end, over the past two years, China has cut down its defence spending with the military budget in 2017 standing at 7 percent, the lowest hike in more than 10 years.

The West is concerned that closer ties between Djibouti and China may prompt the African country to impose restrictions on USA access to the Camp Lemonnier base, which the United States uses to collect intelligence on terrorist groups in the region.

Though small in both population and size, Djibouti's position on the tip of the Horn of Africa offers strategic access to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Djibouti is strategically important for a number of reasons. In addition, the US operates an airfield in Djibouti from which the Pentagon launches drone strikes in the region. It makes sense there is attention on this from foreign public opinion, ” the editorial states.

This will be China's first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.

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But American military leaders have said they don't see it as a threat that will interfere with US operations there.

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