Djibouti welcomes China's military presence

China Military Online
Yao Jianing

BEIJING, August 8 (ChinaMil) -- Spokespersons for both Chinese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry confirmed at the beginning of this year that China and Djibouti reached a consensus on China’s building support facilities in the latter, which will be China's first logistics installation overseas.

Wu Qian, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND), said on February 25 that groundwork for relevant facilities was underway and China had assigned personnel to carry out relevant work.

"China won't use the construction of the support facilities to seek military interference in regional and other countries' affairs or seek military expansion," said Zhang Junshe, a Chinese military expert.

According to Zhang Junshe, a military base is a place where a certain amount of troops are stationed and that serves as the basis for implementing combat and training tasks.

For example, the U.S. military deploys three kinds of strategic bombers - B-52, B-1B and B-2 at the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam that carry out operations in the Far East.

Organizational structure of a certain scale is also established at the military base. The U.S. commander of the military base holds the rank of colonel and is responsible for managing everyday life, security and order at the base.

America's overseas military bases reflect its global military presence and help it maintain the global dominance, control the host country and allies, and influence the surrounding strategic situation.

In contrast, China builds support facilities in Djibouti just in order to serve Chinese naval taskforce that carries out escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. China's support facilities in Djibouti will only be used to store fuel, food, vegetables and fruits.

According to relevant United Nations resolution, China has dispatched 24 escort taskforces to those two regions, and Chinese navy sailors have encountered many difficulties in terms of rest, reorganization and replenishment during the missions.

Every time they berth at a foreign nation's port, they have to coordinate with the host country through diplomatic channels. "If China can build support facilities at an appropriate place en route to the escort missions, they can facilitate vessel berthing and guarantee rest conditions and logistics supply for our sailors," Zhang said.

"We welcome China in Djibouti, just as we welcomed the west." An article written by Djibouti's foreign minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf was published on America's Defense One website, which refuted the view that "China is elbowing Americans out of Djibouti".

The Djibouti's foreign minister said in his article "some people have questioned whether China’s decision to establish a presence in Djibouti means that our nation’s ties with the United States are weakening. The answer is simple – no. We welcome China’s presence in Djibouti, just as we previously welcomed forces from the U.S., NATO, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan, who are present in our country. These are vital strategic allies for Djibouti as we fight against terrorism and piracy, which remain significant threats to the international community and the global economy."

Djibouti is known as the "strategic hotspot contended by maritime powers". China signed an agreement with the country in December 2015 to build a military replenishment port that's able to accommodate 10,000 people, with an aim to protect its huge economic and commercial interests in that region and ensure transportation, industrial and energy security.

Youssouf said with optimism that the presence of Chinese Navy or Army in Djibouti will help restore peace and security in the region with their strength and influence.

Located at the Mandab Strait, Djibouti is the fourth largest sea route for energy supply in the world, commanding a peerless strategic position.

The U.S. has built a military base near Djibouti's Ambouli International Airport that houses 4,000 resident troops and costs more than $60 million every year. The U.S. dispatches forces from the base to fight against ISIS, Somali pirates and branches of radical Islamic terrorist organizations in Africa. It is America's only permanent military base in Africa.

In addition to the U.S., Japan has spent $30 million per year maintaining its maritime military forces since 2011 and has taken active steps to enter waters of Djibouti.

The EU also set up the headquarters of its external peaceful training and sponsored operations in Djibouti in 2012, which has played an important role in EU's assistance to countries along the coast there. The military expenditure by various countries is the main source of revenue for Djibouti.

The authors are Zhang Penghui, Han Xiaoming, Wang Wei, Guo Yuandan and Ren Zhong, reporters from Global Times.

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