Japan will lease additional land next year to expand a military base in Djibouti as a counterweight to what it sees as growing Chinese influence in the region, three Japanese government sources said.
China is seeking closer ties with African nations that could help it gain access to natural resources and provide new markets. Beijing said late last year it would pump US$60 billion into development projects on the continent, cancel some debt and help boost agriculture.
Earlier this year, Japan also pledged to increase its support to infrastructure, education and healthcare projects in Africa, committing an extra US$30 billion in public and private support.
“China is putting money into new infrastructure and raising its presence in Djibouti, and it is necessary for Japan to gain more influence,” one of the sources with knowledge of the plan said.
China in February began building in Djibouti of its first overseas military facility — a coastal logistics base that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.
Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is strategically 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 US and French bases.
Since 2011, a Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) contingent of 180 troops has occupied a 12-hectare site in Djibouti, next to Camp Lemonnier, the US base at the country’s international airport.
From there, the SDF have operated maritime patrol aircraft as part of an international force, including China, that hunts pirates in the seas of the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.
A Japanese Ministry of Defense spokesman confirmed discussions were taking place.
“In addition to the land Japan has borrowed, it is considering leasing the neighboring land to its east,” the spokesman said. “Japan is now in negotiations with the Djibouti government.”
Asked about the plans, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said Japan’s military and security policies had garnered attention in Asia for historical reasons.
“We hope Japan can draw lessons from history, conform with the times and truly follow the path of peaceful development,” Geng told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Japan is considering deploying C-130 transport aircraft, Bushmaster armored vehicles and extra personnel to the base, but has not yet decided on how many, the sources said.
The size of the extra leased land would be smaller than the existing base and was expected to cost about US$1 million a year, they added.
Tokyo will justify the expansion of personnel and aircraft in the Horn of Africa by pointing to a need to have aircraft there to evacuate Japanese citizens from nearby trouble spots or areas hit by natural disasters, the sources said.
Japanese Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada traveled to Djibouti in August, where she said Tokyo was considering expanding the “function” of the Japanese base, but she did not indicate that new land would be added.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications