China Says Building Military Base For Expanded Operations Is Not ‘Military Expansion’

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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China is defending its first overseas military base, claiming that the base is not designed to facilitate Chinese military expansion.

China began constructing a military base in Djibouti in February of this year, marking China’s emergence as a global maritime power. The base, which is expected to be completed and operational next year, signals China’s eagerness to extend its military reach to protect its expanding international interests.

The Chinese typically refer to the base as a “support facility” rather than a military base and reject claims that China intends to use the base to expand its military power abroad.

“China’s establishment of an overseas support facility is for the purpose of better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests, instead of seeking military expansion,” Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesman Senior Colonel Yang Yujun said at a press conference Wednesday.

The Djibouti base will primarily be used to provide “support and supplies for the Chinese military troops taking part in anti-piracy escort missions and humanitarian assistance missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, the defense ministry further explained.

“At present, the project is progressing smoothly,” Yang added.

“Our base in Djibouti is not a military base,” Song Zhongping, a military commentator, told the Global Times, despite the defense ministry’s statements that the base will aid the Chinese military as it expands its operational role in the region and defends China’s “lawful interests.”

Many controversial and contested interests, such as the South China Sea, are considered “lawful interests.”

The new base will reportedly house 10,000 military personnel.

“Steadily advancing overseas base construction” is an aspiration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Adm. Sun Jianguo wrote in a Communist Party magazine in April, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“I haven’t got any information on the Chinese side’s possible building of similar support facility in other areas,” Yang said Wednesday without denying the possibility of additional outposts.

The location of the base has strategic significance, particularly with regard to Chinese resource security, and the Pentagon reportedly predicts China will build several more outposts in the next decade.

“It should be stressed that it is a consistent and clear-cut policy for China to stick to the path of peaceful development, adhere to a national defense policy that is defensive in nature and resolutely safeguard regional and global peace and stability,” Yang explained.

China’s strategic aspirations for its military base are still unclear.

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