China launches charm offensive for first overseas naval base

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has launched an unusual charm offensive to explain its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, seeking to assuage global concerns about military expansionism by portraying the move as Beijing’s contribution to regional security and development.

China has repeatedly said it does not seek a U.S.-style “hegemony” by extending its military reach, including through bases abroad.

Now that it appears it may be doing precisely that, the government has been quietly briefing on its rationale for the Djibouti base and using state media to address fears of China’s aims.

“China is explaining it as part of the ‘one road, one belt’ strategy, to help link Ethiopia to the sea,” said one Western diplomat who has been briefed by Chinese officials on the Djibouti base, referring to China’s New Silk Road strategy.

That involves opening trade corridors across continents that will help bolster the Chinese economy and connect it with the rest of the world.

A $4 billion railway will connect Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to Djibouti’s new Chinese-invested port, where a military facility will be located, according to Chinese media.

INDIAN ALARM

Djibouti’s location on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worries in India that it will become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Indian military officials 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.

Together with China’s involvement in Pakistan’s Gwadar port, another potential military base, the role of China’s navy would be greatly enhanced and posed a threat to the Indian navy, Indian army brigadier Mandip Singh said in a paper for the government-funded Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

STRING OF AFRICAN PEARLS

More bases may be on the way, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hinted at this month’s annual meeting of parliament.

There are several African ports which China and Chinese firms are helping to build and develop. Commercial in nature, they all could berth Chinese naval ships one day.

Full article: China launches charm offensive for first overseas naval base (Yahoo!)

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