BEIJING – Warships carrying thousands of Chinese troops are sailing towards Djibouti to set up Beijing’s first overseas military base, state media reported, as the Communist nation’s rapidly modernizing military extends its global reach.
The Navy ships departed from Zhanjiang in southern China to set up a “support base” in the Horn of Africa nation, state media reported late on Tuesday.
It did not specify the number of troops or ships that departed for Djibouti, nor when the base would start operations.
China’s deal with Djibouti allows the presence of up to 10,000 soldiers in the country until 2026.
China says the support base will be used for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia. It will also be used for military co-operation, naval exercises and rescue missions, Xinhua said.
The U.S., Japan and France also have military bases in Djibouti, a tiny barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. It is situated at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal.
China has ramped up investment in Africa, as well as rapidly modernised its military in recent years.
In 2015, at a major summit with African nations, China pledged to invest $60bn (then £40bn) in Africa’s development.
The Asian country has invested in a railway that connects Djibouti to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
In return, Africa supplies China with natural resources, minerals and energy.