Japan is eyeing to lease additional land by next year to expand its military base in Djibouti to counter Chinese influence in the region.
Japan is considering deploying C-130 transport aircraft, Bushmaster armored vehicles and extra personnel to the base but has not yet decided on how many, Reuters quoted unnamed Japanese government source as saying Thursday.
Earlier this year, Japan also pledged to increase its support to infrastructure, education and healthcare projects in Africa, committing an extra $30 billion in public and private support.
"In addition to the land Japan has borrowed, it is considering leasing the neighboring land to its east," A Japanese Defence Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Japan is now in negotiations with Djibouti government."
Asked about the plans, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Japan's military and security policies had garnered attention in Asia for historical reasons.
"We hope Japan can draw lessons from history, conform with the times, and truly follow the path of peaceful development," Geng told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
The size of the extra leased land would be smaller than the existing base and was expected to cost around $1 million a year, they added.
"China is putting money into new infrastructure and raising its presence in Djibouti, and it is necessary for Japan gain more influence," the source said.
China will soon take control of a dual-use port facility in Djibouti, Newslaundry reported last month. The port facility will serve both military and civilian functions. The naval installation will serve China’s interests in the Western region of Indian Ocean and can be used as a platform for operations in Middle East and Africa.
China is making inroads into the African defense market by setting up a military base and exporting military equipment to almost two thirds of African countries.
Countries including Algeria, Angola, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Uganda, Ghana and Zambia have bought military equipment from China in the recent past.
According to a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released in February this year, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 88 per cent between 2006–10 and 2011–15, and China’s share of global arms exports rose from 3.6 to 5.9 per cent.
Between 2006–10 and 2011–15 imports by states in Africa increased by 19 per cent. The three largest importers in Africa in 2011–15 were Algeria (30 per cent of imports), Morocco (26 per cent) and Uganda (6.2 per cent). China accounted for 13 per cent of the total imports by African countries.
Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has set up International Aero Development Corporation (IADC) in 2015 as part of their expansion plan in Africa. The company has been involved in the development and export of several People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) platforms, including the FC-20, the export version of the Chengdu J-10, and the FC-1 Xiaolong, the export version of the JF-17 Thunder.