Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 1 News List

China mulling base in Gulf of Aden: admiral


A top Chinese naval official has proposed setting up a permanent base to support ships on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, raising the idea that China could build foreign bases elsewhere.

In an interview posted on the Defense Ministry Web site, Yin Zhuo (尹卓) — an admiral and senior researcher at the navy’s Equipment Research Center — said such a base would bolster China’s long-term participation in the operation.

“We are not saying we need our navy everywhere in order to fulfill our international commitments,” he said. “We are saying to fulfill our international commitments, we need to strengthen our supply capacity.”

Yin’s proposal, posted on Tuesday, came after a Chinese cargo ship and its 25-member crew were released by Somali pirates on Monday, following the payment of a US$3.5 million ransom.

China has sent four flotillas to the region since the end of last year, with the first escort fleet spending 124 days at sea without docking, Yin said — a length of time that added to the challenges of the operation.

Since then, Chinese vessels have been allowed to dock and resupply at a French naval base. The US, EU and Japan all have supply bases in the region, he said.

“If China establishes a similar long-term supply base, I believe that the nations in the region and the other countries involved with the [anti-pirate] escorts would understand,” he said. “I think a permanent, stable base would be good for our operations.”

A decision on such a base would have to be made by the Chinese Communist Party and its Central Military Commission, Yin said.

Yin said he knew that Chinese naval ships in the waters near the Gulf have aroused suspicions, but believed other nations understood Beijing’s intention was to counter pirates. As the world’s largest oil importer, China is reportedly interested in establishing naval bases in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and the South China Sea to protect its sea lines.

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