July 11 (UPI) — China is expanding its presence in East Africa with the addition of military personnel at its base in Djibouti.
Beijing’s state-owned news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday ships carrying Chinese troops left from a port in southern China.
The People’s Liberation Army personnel are to “set up a support base in Djibouti,” according to the report.
The decision to station Chinese troops comes after “friendly negotiations” between the two countries, and would serve the “common interest” of both sides, the news service stated.
The report also said the troops are to assist with “escorting, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia,” and the base would serve as a site of future joint exercises.
The Chinese base in Djibouti is a significant investment, but Beijing has also built a large $590 million port near Djibouti City in the Gulf of Aden.
The Chinese government has confirmed the base was being built in 2015, and said the move would benefit United Nations peacekeeping missions and counter-piracy operations.
President Xi Jinping wants to link Africa and China as parts of his “Belt and Road” initiative: an international trade and infrastructure project that will connect China’s coastal regions to Africa, Asia and the Middle East through a maritime route.
The military base is part of Beijing’s plan to continue with its “maritime military struggle,” and to overcome conventional thinking that “land outweighs sea,” according to its 2015 defense white paper.
The United States and Japan also retain bases in Djibouti, about 6 miles from the Chinese base.