Tue, 11 May 2021

Washington [US], April 24 (ANI): As China continues to increase its military presence across the African continent, Washington has said that its forces in Africa are keeping a watchful eye on China adding that it is getting closer to establishing a network of military and naval bases across the continent which is a 'significant threat'.

"We know the Chinese desire a network of bases around the globe," the head of US Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, told lawmakers Thursday, adding, "My concern is the greatest along the Atlantic coast of Africa."According to Voice of America, China established its first military base on Africa's east coast, in Doraleh, Djibouti, in 2017, raising concern among US military officials who described the Chinese facility as being "right outside our gates" of the US base at Camp Lemonnier.

Townsend said that since then, Beijing has worked on expanding its footprint in Djibouti as it eyes additional locations.

"What they have done in the last two years is completed a very large and capable naval pier that adjoins their base," Townsend said on Chinese expansion at Doraleh. "This pier has a capability to dock their largest ships, to include the Chinese aircraft carrier as well as nuclear submarines."Voice of America further reported that according to US officials, China is looking to set up a presence farther south along the eastern Africa coast, in Tanzania, and has an even more ambitious plan for Africa's Atlantic coastline.

"This is the most significant threat from China," Townsend told members of the Senate Armed Service Committee, saying Beijing wants "something more than a place where they can make port calls and get gas and groceries.""I'm talking about a port where they can rearm with munitions and repair naval vessels," he said. "They're working aggressively to get that."He also revealed how a recently completed pier at the Chinese naval base in Djibouti, near the entrance to the Red Sea, is large enough to support an aircraft carrier.

The People's Liberation Army is expanding its existing naval installation adjacent to a Chinese-owned commercial deep-water port and also seeking other military basing options elsewhere on the continent.

"Their first overseas military base, their only one, is in Africa, and they have just expanded that by adding a significant pier that can even support their aircraft carriers in the future. Around the continent they are looking for other basing opportunities," said Townsend, as quoted by United States Naval Institute (USNI) News.

The base, which opened in 2017, was developed to support the Chinese anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden but has expanded to include capabilities to serve as a logistical resupply hub for the Chinese Navy's ships, according to analysts.

In October last year, commercial satellite imagery showed construction on a pier system at the military base in Djibouti.

The relationship between Djibouti and China is a case study on how Beijing is using its global infrastructure investment strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, to aggrandise its economic influence and strengthen its position as the top investor in Africa.

The present scenario, however, illustrates the limitations of China's vast investment and loans project as it is drying up, reported France24.

In accepting vast inflows of Chinese capital and loans, Djibouti now finds itself in a situation of such economic dependence that it "risks threatening its autonomy", Sonia Le Gouriellec, a Horn of Africa specialist at the Catholic University of Lille, wrote in the Revue de Defense Nationale (National Defence Review).

Under the former President Donald Trump's administration, ties between the two countries had deteriorated over issues such as human rights violations in Xinjiang, encroachment on the special status of Hong Kong, accusations of unfair trade practices by Beijing, lack of transparency concerning the pandemic and China's military aggression in various parts of the world. (ANI)

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