BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese officer has met Djibouti’s military chief-of-staff in Beijing and thanked him for supporting China’s construction of a military base in the Horn of Africa country, the second such high-level meeting in a month.
Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worries in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
In February, China began construction of a logistics base in strategically located Djibouti that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia in particular.
This will be China’s first overseas naval base, although China officially terms it a logistics facility.
Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, visited Djibouti last month.
In a return visit, Djibouti chief-of-staff Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim met Fang Fenghui, also a member of China’s Central Military Commission and chief of the Joint Staff Department, China’s Defence Ministry said late on Monday.
“China thanks Djibouti and hopes it supports China’s construction of the logistics base,” the ministry cited Fang as saying.
China was willing to use these facilities in the future to help Djibouti with international peace-keeping missions, personnel training, equipment repair and disaster relief, Fang said.
Zakaria said his country put great store on its strategic relationship with China, the ministry paraphrased him as telling Fang.
Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts U.S., Japanese and French bases.
There has been persistent speculation in diplomatic circles that China would build other such bases, but China’s Defence Ministry dismissed that last month.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait