China has defended the construction of its first overseas naval base in Djibouti saying it is to contribute to regional security and development.
The country has been accused of seeking to extend its military reach abroad, just like the USA. But officials have repeatedly dismissed the claims.
“China is explaining it as part of the ‘one road, one belt’ strategy to help link Ethiopia to the sea,” Reuters quotes a western diplomat as saying.
The ‘New Silk Road’ strategy by China involves opening trade corridors across the African continent to support the Chinese economy.
Chinese media reports that a $4 billion railway will be constructed to connect Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa to Djibouti’s newly developed Chinese port which will be home to the military facility.
In a statement to Reuters, China’s Defence Ministry said it had communicated its intentions about Djibouti to “relevant countries and international organisations,” and reiterated the fact that the facility was mostly for resupply purposes for anti-piracy, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.
“What needs to be stressed is that China upholds a path of peaceful development … and has never engaged in an arms race or military expansion. This will never change,” said the Chinese Defence Ministry in a statement.
Djibouti, which already hosts American and French military facilities has echoed China’s line that the base will be used for refueling and other logistical support to fight piracy and protect trade routes.
Indian military officials have told Reuters that China’s naval presence in Djibouti would add another dimension to India’s military contingency planning, so far confined to land and air operations stemming from a decades-old border dispute with China across the Himalayas.
Djibouti’s government, meanwhile, is keen to develop military cooperation with China, according to Reuters.