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Old 07-12-2017, 05:24 PM
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Arrow China Deploys Troops To Its First Overseas Military Base In Africa

China Deploys Troops To Its First Overseas Military Base In Africa
By: Tyler Durden - Jul 12, 2017 6:30 PM

(Map on site only)

China has deployed troops to the country's first overseas military base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, as China's rapidly modernizing military extends its global reach. Beijing says the "support base" will be used for logistical purposes, such as resupplying ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia however concerns are growing about China's rising geopolitical influence especially at such a key strategic location.

Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is situated at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts U.S., Japanese and French bases. As we reported last year, China raised many eyebrows when it began construction of the Djibouti logistical base last year. Located nearly 5,000 miles from the Chinese capital, Djibouti is located at a highly strategic, if dangerous part of the world. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is one of the planet’s most important oil chokepoints and, like the Suez Canal, there are numerous nations that have an interest in keeping it open and secure. Additionally, Djibouti’s location on the horn of Africa makes it an attractive base from which to conduct "anti-terror", or any other military operations in both Africa and the Mid-East.

As Xinhua reports, ships carrying Chinese military personnel from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) departed Zhanjiang in southern China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday to set up a support base in Djibouti, without providing details on the number of troops that were deployed. Referring to the facility as a “support base,” the Chinese media said its purpose will be to ensure China's successful performance of missions in the region.

While it did not say when operations would begin at the base, Xinhua stated that the base will also assist with overseas tasks including military cooperation and joint exercises, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic waterways. The decision to build the base in Djibouti came after “friendly negotiations” between the two nations, according to the PLA Navy.

PLA soldiers salute from a ship sailing off from a military port in Zhanjiang, July 11

Furthermore, in front-page commentary, the People's Liberation Army Daily said the facility will increase China's ability to ensure global peace, particularly because it has many UN peacekeepers in Africa and is very involved in anti-piracy patrols. It also noted that China will under no circumstances be seeking military expansionism or become involve in arms races, although as discussed below many are skeptical.

An editorial in the state-run Global Times "patriotic" tabloid, referred to the facility as a proper base, rather than a logistics facility:

“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,” the editorial states. It went on to state that China's military development is about protecting its own security, not about “seeking to control the world.”

While there has been persistent speculation that China would build other such bases, in Pakistan for example, but the government has dismissed this.

In the past, China has pitched its involvement in the country’s development as an extension of Xi’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which is essentially an expansive initiative that i) gives China an excuse to take a stake in any country that’s willing to accept FDI, and ii) creates a kind of pressure valve for Beijing’s excess industrial capacity.

"China is explaining it as part of the 'one road, one belt' strategy, to help link Ethiopia to the sea," one Western diplomat who has been briefed by Chinese officials on the Djibouti base, told Reuters last year. "China does not want to be seen as a threat.”

Meanwhile, as Reuters adds, Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worry 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. As Reuters cited a Western official last year, "If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti. Djibouti enables China to base its long-range naval air assets there and these are capable of maintaining surveillance over the Arabian Sea as well as India's island territories off the Western coast."

The deployment comes after a Pentagon report in May claimed that China was eyeing military presence overseas and modernization of its military to “deter or defeat adversary power projection and counter third-party intervention – including by the United States – during a crisis or conflict.” Beijing responded by saying it is “firmly opposed” to the report, which is said included “irresponsible remarks” and “disregarded facts.”

Djibouti is home to some 887,000 people and is favored for its strategic location at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, on the route to the Suez Canal. The nation is also home to US, French and Japanese military compounds.

Japanese government sources said last year that Tokyo also plans to expand its base in Djibouti, to counter what it sees as growing Chinese influence in the region. “China is putting money into new infrastructure and raising its presence in Djibouti, and it is necessary for Japan gain more influence,” one source told Reuters at the time.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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