Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 6 News List

PLA general visits Djibouti amid base rumors

AFP, BEIJING

A top Chinese military officer visited Djibouti over the weekend, official media reported, prompting a state-run newspaper yesterday to downplay concerns Beijing is planning to establish a base in the strategically vital African entrepot.

The chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general staff, General Fang Fenghui (房峰輝) met Djibouti’s president at the weekend, the official PLA news source China Military Online reported.

Fang told Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh that China was willing to “deepen pragmatic cooperation between the two countries and two militaries,” the report paraphrased.

Beijing is expanding its military heft and reach as China becomes more powerful, with annual double-digit defense budget increases and its first aircraft carrier entering service.

A former French colony, Djibouti guards the entrance to the Red Sea and, ultimately, the Suez Canal, and has been used by international navies — including China — as a base in the fight against piracy from neighboring Somalia.

In May, Guelleh said that “discussions are ongoing” with China for a military base in the tiny Horn of Africa nation, saying that Beijing’s presence would be “welcome.”

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