Chinese troops leave for Djibouti to set up military base


China has dispatched its naval forces to the Horn of Africa to set up an army base in Djibouti, where several global players have a military presence.

In February, 2016, China announced it was building a logistical facility in Djibouti. The project is a revival of ancient silk routes, and is also a way for China to assert geopolitical influence in places where US President Donald Trump's "America First" policy has left a power vacuum.

Naval force administrator Shen Jinlong "read a request on developing the base in Djibouti" yet the report did not state when the base may formally start operations.

Xinhua said the establishment of the base was a decision made by the two countries after "friendly negotiations, and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides".

Referring to the facility as a “support base, ” the Chinese media outlet said its goal will be to ensure China's successful performance of missions in the region, including peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and western Asia.

Beijing also says it will use the base to facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises, as Chinese navy and other services seek to expand their global presence in line with the country's growing economic and political influence.

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While the move has raised quite a few eyebrows with many wondering about the timing, Jun Zhengping Studio, PLA Daily's WeChat account, said in an article that the restructuring process was being carried out by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to boost other sections of the forces.

The Global Times, a newspaper which often takes a nationalist tone, said the new facility was indeed a military base. The modest, fruitless country sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia likewise have US, Japanese and French bases.

"This is the first time that active PLA Army personnel would be reduced to below one million", said a report in the PLA Daily on structural reform in the military.

For now, Djibouti will provide a more comprehensive resupply point for the constant stream of warships traveling back and forth from China.

Edward Paice, director of the London-based Africa Research Institute, said a base in Djibouti makes a lot of sense for China, just as it does for Japan or the US.

"It's not about seeking to control the world", said the editorial.


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