China has begun construction of a logistics base in Djibouti, Chinese Ministry of Defence confirmed today; the base at the Horn of Africa will be China’s first military facility overseas. Djibouti’s president defended Beijing’s right to build what will be its first foreign military outpost on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. “The Chinese government has decided to move to this area,” President Ismail Omar Guelleh said to Reuters on an interview in Addis Ababa. “They have the right to defend their interests, just like everybody else does.” The base will be used primarily for military rest and resupply of military ships carrying out naval escort, peacekeeping and humanitarian duties, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said. China had conducted anti-piracy operations in the region in recent years and is seeking to expand its capacity to respond to growing threats to its interests abroad.
Strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal, Djibouti is already home to U.S. and French bases, while other navies often use its port. China said last year it was in talks to build what it describes as naval “support facilities” in the Horn of Africa nation, which has less than a million people but is striving to become an international shipping hub.
The Chinese facilities would be at the new, Multi-Purpose Port being built in the south of the country in partnership with China Merchants Holdings International. The navy would use one of the berths. Djibouti is expanding its port facilities to handle more bulk commodities, containers and other goods. Djibouti plans investment worth $12.4 billion between 2015 and 2020, with the Chinese providing much of the financing.