China has formally opened its new military base in Djibouti, with a national flag ceremony and a military parade held at the barracks near the port city of Obock.
The ceremony marked the arrival of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops at the base, following a journey that began July 11 upon the agreement of officials from both countries. China’s Xinhua news agency said the base opening – the first PLA military base established overseas – will facilitate missions on the Gulf of Aden and in waters off Somalia.
More than 300 people, Djibouti’s defense minister and the deputy commander of China’s navy among them, attended the ceremony. It was held in conjunction with Tuesday’s celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the PLA, which included a conference and live-broadcast speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, as well as ceremonies at Hong Kong and other Chinese military installations.
China’s agreement with Djibouti allows for the presence of up to 10,000 Chinese troops through 2026. The base site has been under construction since April 2016.
Djibouti also is home to about 4,000 American troops and other personnel stationed at nearby Camp Lemonnier, as well as French and Japanese troops. Both bases are close together, with shared interest in the strategic location at the southern Red Sea point of the Suez shipping route, and exercises and access on Djibouti’s Gulf of Tadjoura.
China’s investment in the new base extends its commitment to both Djibouti and its “One Belt, One Road” ambitions. The Djibouti-Ethiopia railway, completed in 2016, was funded primarily by China, as are a port terminal at Tadjoura, several pipeline projects and other interests.
Image: Ministry of National Defense/PRC