May 07, 2016 4:56 AM
Chinese President Xi Jinping is sending a special envoy to visit the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, where China is establishing a naval logistics center that is widely seen as the first overseas base for its increasingly powerful military.
Deputy head of the national legislature Yan Junqi will this week attend the inauguration of Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh followed by that of President Yoweri Museveni in nearby Uganda, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday.
The report didn't say whether Yan would visit the base construction site. However, her presence at the inauguration underscores the region's political, military and economic importance to China.
China says the logistics center is intended to service a variety of missions, primarily anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast that China has been participating in since 2008.
It will also facilitate humanitarian outreach and support for Chinese troops on U.N. peacekeeping missions in African nations, allowing easier refueling and replenishing for ships, along with medical and planning support and rest and recreation for sailors and soldiers, the Defense Ministry says.
The base is seen as a milestone in the global advance of China's military and expands on its traditional mission of safeguarding Chinese territory and conquering self-governing Taiwan.
Despite that, the Defense Ministry has provided few details and refrained even from referring to it as a military base, in line with China's longtime policy of not establishing military alliances or a permanent overseas military presence.
China's choice of strategically located Djibouti has raised eyebrows among military envoys and foreign governments since the small, strategically located nation is already home to U.S. and French military installations.
It has especially raised concerns in India, which has cast a wary eye on the Chinese navy's growing presence in the Indian Ocean and China's close ties with Pakistan and other countries in the region.