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China To Establish Military Base In Djibouti Where US Launches Counterterrorism Ops

China is looking to establish a permanent military base in Djibouti, an African country on the eastern coast used as a major launching pad for U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The naval base is likely to be placed in Obock, a port city located on the Gulf of Tadjoura, Colin Clark of Breaking Defense reported Wednesday.

Djibouti is a mainstay for U.S. covert operations through Camp Lemonnier, a base of operations used to conduct missions in both Yemen and Somali.

Many other countries besides use Djibouti as a hub to fight piracy in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In the past, China has deployed warships in the Horn of Africa for counterpiracy missions, in an effort to protect $200 billion dollars of annual trade between China and Africa. A base would help solidify influence and further allow military projection into the Indian Ocean.

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

In February 2014, Djibouti signed an agreement giving China access to one of its ports, a move which was not kindly received by the U.S. As a response, the U.S. renewed the lease on Camp Lemonnier for 20 years in May 2014 after President Barack Obama and Guelleh met in the Oval Office.

Beijing’s latest development in Africa is troubling to lawmakers in Congress, particularly Rep. Randy Forbes, chairman of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee.

“China’s decision to establish a permanent base in Djibouti is the latest sign of Beijing’s desire to project power and maintain a forward presence far beyond its near seas,” Forbes said in a statement.

“From the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean and now the Gulf of Aden, the potentially global reach of China’s military expansion has become clear. China’s determination for permanent bases far outside their traditional area of influence should remind Washington that Beijing sees itself as a global power even while many in the United States seem content with seeing our influence recede around the world.”

As an additional warning, Foreign Affairs noted in April 23 that unless the United States starts to make serious inroads with other countries, like France and Germany, that are also stationed in Djbouti, “Washington might find that the country hosting its only military base in sub-Saharan Africa owes more favors to China, its rising global rival, than to the United States itself.”

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

 

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