China's First Overseas Military Base Raises 'Significant Concerns'
China's alleged first overseas naval base in East Africa's Djibouti is raising red flags for the US military, which also has a military outpost just nearby.
"We've never had a base of, let's just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be," Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), told Breaking Defense. "There are some very significant operation security concerns," he added, referring to the new Chinese outpost.
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China, on the other hand, denied that the facility is a military based and called it as a "depot" or "logistical support facility" instead. "China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities... to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said when the leased was announced in January 2016. Waldhauser, however, insisted that the structure is almost certainly a "military base."
According to Daily Caller, China's statements on its alleged military base in Djibouti have also been conflicting at times. While officials asserted it is not a military base, they also claimed that it will help carry out Chinese military missions and safeguard the country's "lawful interests" in the area.
Waldhauser said that the US already told the Djiboutian government about it, "and they know what our concerns are."
The base is expected to be completed this summer and will house around 10,000 personnel. It is located near Camp Lemonnier, a special-operation outpost. Lemonnier and Djibouti strategically lie in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which is the gateway to Egypt's Suez Canal, one of the busiest shipping corridor in the world.
Meanwhile, the American base has 4,000 US military personnel and has been operation since 2001. It is currently the only permanent American military outpost in Africa. It has also long hosted sensitive US drone and air operations.