China on Tuesday dispatched members of its People's Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti to man the rising Asian giant's first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China's armed forces.
China's defence ministry said that a ceremony was held at a naval pier in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong.
Referring to the facility as a support base, the Chinese media outlet said its objective will be to ensure China's successful performance of missions in the region, including peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and western Asia.
According to the report, as the number of troops in PLA Army is decreased, the number of troops in the PLA Navy, PLA Strategic Support Force, and the PLA Rocket Force will be increased.
But the "essential goal of China's development of its military might is to protect "China's safety", and is not about seeking to control the world", it said. This forms part of China's strategic intentions, Naidu says, with the country wanting to become more embedded in these regions. "The completion and operation of the base will help China better fulfill its global obligations in conducting escorting missions and humanitarian assistance ..." Located on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean, it is also strategically important for India.
Mattis also discussed the issue of China's growing influence in Djibouti with officials of the African country.
"Certainly this is the People's Liberation Army's first overseas base and we will base troops there". Djibouti is a small country that covers 23,180 square kilometers of land with a population of 774,389, in the Horn of Africa right at the entrance of the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden.
Camp Lemmonier, the US's only permanent military base in the continent, is also situated in the East African state.
Elsewhere in Djibouti, the United States military operates the Chabelley Airfield, from which the Pentagon stages drone airstrikes, likely into Somalia and across the Bab el-Mandeb Strait into Yemen, according to the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in NY. "Foreign public opinion focuses on the base for good reason; this base will support China's navy to go farther afield, and it is of great significance".
Japanese government sources said past year that Tokyo will be expanding its base in Djibouti, to counter what it sees as growing Chinese influence in the region.