China has hinted that it is planning more global military bases after setting up a logistics centre in Djibouti, a move some analysts view as Beijing’s attempt to wield more global influence.
Djibouti – strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal – is already home to United States and French bases, while other navies often use its port. On the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has fewer than a million people but is striving to become an international shipping hub.
China is building the logistics facility there to support its anti-piracy operations in the waters off Somalia and Yemen.
Speaking on the sidelines of China’s annual congress meeting on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beijing 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 added, without elaborating.
He also said China is not looking to supplant the United States.
China and the US regularly clash on everything from trade and human rights to Beijing’s claims in the disputed South China Sea. Candidates for this year’s US presidential election have routinely criticised Beijing.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, is seeking to expand its capacity to respond to growing threats to its interests abroad.
Beijing has been keen not to call it a military base, but state media increasingly uses this language to refer to it.