China has clarified that it will use Djibouti as a logistics support base to handle difficulties encountered by its peacekeeping fleet.
“China had sent escort fleets to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia in recent years and these fleets had experienced difficulties that affected the rest and reorganization of servicemen and the supply of oil,” the Foreign Ministry told China Daily last Thursday.
"It (the outpost) is essential to implement highly efficient logistical support," the ministry said.
The ministry's remarks came after senior Djibouti officials and Chinese experts said some media reports about the outpost had been unnecessarily hostile.
Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday as saying that China was expected to start work on the facility soon.
In December, the Ministry of National Defense confirmed that China and Djibouti had reached agreement on the outpost. Military bases and support facilities for countries including the United States and France have long been based in Djibouti.
Djibouti's Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf told Reuters, "We understand that some Western countries have worries about China's willingness to have military outposts outside of China." He said that Western countries should not be concerned.
Djibouti is a pivotal country in the Horn of Africa standing between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. It is a key transfer stop for international humanitarian missions, including those of the United Nations.
Yin Zhuo, director of the People's Liberation Army Navy's Expert Consultation Committee, estimated that a Chinese fleet patrolling waters in the region has to feed about 800 staff members every day. A single mission, which lasts on average for 120 days, places a huge demand on food and water supplies.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute said, the outpost that China is expected to build there is designed to provide food, water and oil. It would be totally different from US military bases, which supply weaponry.
Djibouti's strategic importance and logistical convenience were highlighted last year when Chinese citizens evacuated from Yemen transited there.
While meeting with Djibouti's President Guelleh in Johannesburg in December, President Xi Jinping said China appreciated Djibouti's help in supporting Chinese peacekeeping fleets and in evacuating Chinese citizens from Yemen.