China is planning to set up a naval facility in Djibouti, East Africa, to strengthen the nation's counter-piracy and peacekeeping efforts.
"The construction of the relevant facilities will assist China's navy and army to participate in UN peacekeeping operations, carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and provide humanitarian assistance," Spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry Hong Lei said.
The support facilities will provide logistical support to fuel,rest and re-supply Chinese Navy ships, addressing possible speculations of the port boosting Beijing’s military expansion in the strategically vital Horn of Africa, China Daily reported today.
Djibouti is on the Gulf of Aden, bordering the Red Sea and across from Yemen. The East African nation is presently hosting military forces from the US, France, Italy, Japan and Pakistan. “China has signed a 10-year deal with Djibouti to build a military base there,” David Rodriguez, a commander with US Africa Command said.
"Building military supporting facilities was just a start for China to carry out security cooperation with the African Union." Liu Hongwu, director of the School of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University, said.
Security cooperation will be a major area in future cooperation between China and the African Union, since for many years African countries have requested China to take part in their security processes, Liu said. Moreover, there is a tendency for China to strengthen its security cooperation abroad, especially with Africa, Liu added.
China carefully avoided calling the installation a "military base" similar to those maintained by the US worldwide.
In September, China assured to establish a United Nations permanent peacekeeping force of 8,000 troops and would provide $100 million to the African Union to create an immediate response unit capable of responding to emergencies.