Vice-Ad­mi­ral Tian Zhong, deputy com­man­der of the PLA Navy, in­spects forces in Dji­bouti on Tues­day.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG ZHIHAO zhangzhi­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s first over­seas lo­gis­ti­cal base be­gan op­er­a­tions on Tues­day, the same day as the 90th birth­day of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army.

More than 300 peo­ple at­tended the flag rais­ing cer­e­mony that marked the open­ing of the Dji­bouti base, on the Horn of Africa. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both coun­tries at­tended, in­clud­ing Vice-Ad­mi­ral Tian Zhong, deputy com­man­der of the PLA Navy; Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to Dji­bouti Fu Huaqiang; and Dji­bouti De­fense Min­is­ter Ali Hasan Bah­don.

The base, near the south­ern en­trance to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, is China’s only per­ma­nent over­seas lo­gis­ti­cal base. It was estab­lished to sup­port the Chi­nese mil­i­tary’s es­cort and peace­keep­ing mis­sions in Africa and West Asia.

It can sup­port some 10,000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to PLA Daily, but of­fi­cial fig­ures for the num­ber of per­son­nel to be sta­tioned there have not been re­leased.

On July 11, the Navy dis­patched two ships, CNS Jing­gang­shan and CNS Dong­haidao, to bring in per­son­nel and put on the fin­ish­ing touches.

The Jing­gang­shan is an am­phibi­ous war­fare land­ing plat­form dock that car­ried marines, engi­neers and ve­hi­cles to the base. The Dong­haidao is a heavy-lift, semi- sub­mersible lo­gis­tics ship for over­sized cargo like equip­ment.

The base is near Camp Le­mon­nier, a US naval base used for stag­ing aerial, drone and Spe­cial Forces mis­sions in East Africa, the Ara­bian Penin­sula and the Per­sian Gulf.

France and Ja­pan also have bases in the coun­try. This year, Saudi Ara­bia is fi­nal­iz­ing deals to build a base there.

Liu Hongwu, the pres­i­dent of the In­sti­tute of African Stud­ies at Zhe­jiang Nor­mal Univer­sity, said Dji­bouti, with a pop­u­la­tion of 960,000, is strate­gi­cally sig­nif­i­cant both eco­nom­i­cally and mil­i­tar­ily, hence many na­tions are “scram­bling to get a foot­ing” there.

“It is si­t­u­ated at the junc­ture of Europe, Asia and Africa; in a sense, it is the cross­roads of the world. Dji­bouti is also a rel­a­tively sta­ble and safe coun­try. Its lead­ers are open to in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion, thus mak­ing the coun­try an ideal lo­gis­tics hub and door to Africa.”

A 750-kilo­me­ter rail­way, fi­nanced and built by China, links the port cap­i­tal of Dji­bouti with land­locked Ethiopia’s cap­i­tal, Ad­dis Ababa.

10,000 peo­ple can be sup­ported by the Dji­bouti base, ac­cord­ing to PLA Daily.

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