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China Negotiating Military Base in Horn of Africa

China Negotiating Military Base in Horn of AfricaChina Negotiating Military Base in Horn of Africa

China is negotiating a military base in the strategic port of Djibouti, the country’s president said, raising the prospect of US and Chinese bases side-by-side in the tiny Horn of Africa nation.

“Discussions are ongoing,” President Ismail Omar Guelleh said, stressing that Beijing’s presence would be “welcome.”

Djibouti is already home to Camp Lemonnier, the US military headquarters on the continent, used for covert, anti-terror and other operations in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere across Africa, France24 reported.

France and Japan also have bases in the port, a former French colony that guards the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and which has been used by European and other international navies as a base in the fight against piracy from neighboring Somalia.

China is already financing several major infrastructure projects estimated to total more than $9 billion, including improved ports, airports and railway lines to landlocked Ethiopia, for whom Djibouti is a lifeline port.

“France’s presence is old, and the Americans found that the position of Djibouti could help in the fight against terrorism in the region,” Guelleh said. “The Japanese want to protect themselves from piracy - and now the Chinese also want to protect their interests, and they are welcome,” he said.

Djibouti and Beijing signed a military agreement allowing the Chinese navy to use Djibouti port in February 2014, a move that angered Washington. China aims to install a permanent military base in Obock, Djibouti’s northern port city.

 Land Reclamation

US officials said Friday that China has dramatically ramped up its land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea this year, building artificial islands at an unprecedented pace to bolster its territorial claims in the disputed area.

The rapid construction of artificial islands in the strategic waters comes to 800 hectares, with 75 percent of the total in the last five months, officials said.

The US did not endorse land reclamation by any of the countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea, but “the pace and scale of China’s land reclamation in recent years dwarfs that of any other claimant,” the official said.

The South China Sea is home to strategically vital shipping lanes and is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Washington is concerned China’s efforts carry a military dimension that could undermine America’s naval and economic power in the Pacific.

 

Financialtribune.com