China hinted on Tuesday that it was planning more global bases following the setting up of its logistics centre in Djibouti, what the Horn of African country’s government calls a military facility that will be China’s first overseas.
China plans to use it to support is anti-piracy operations in the waters off the strife-torn nations of Somalia and Yemen. Beijing has been keen not to call it a military base, but state media increasingly uses this language to refer to it.
China’s Defence Ministry said last month building had begun on the base, something China describes as naval “support facilities” in Djibouti, which has fewer than a million people but is striving to become an international shipping hub.
Djibouti, strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal, is already home to U.S. and French bases, while other navies often use its port.
Asked about Djibouti at his yearly news conference on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of parliament, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China was fulfilling its international obligations to protect shipping.
“We are willing to, in accordance with objective needs, responding to the wishes of host nations and in regions where China’s interests are concentrated, try out the construction of some infrastructure facilities and support abilities,” he said.
“I believe that this is not only fair and reasonable but also accords with international practice,” Wang said, without elaborating.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, is seeking to expand its capacity to respond to growing threats to its interests abroad.
President Xi Jinping is reforming the military and investing in submarines and aircraft carriers, as China’s navy becomes more assertive in its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
China is also expanding its peacekeeping role, with Xi pledging in September to contribute 8,000 troops for a United Nations stand-by force that could provide logistical and operational experience the military would need to operate further abroad.
While China has been getting more involved diplomatically in trouble spots such as the Middle East, it is adamant that it does not interfere in the affairs of other countries, and is the only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council which has not taken military action in Syria.