Last week, China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed for the first time that construction on “support facilities” for the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, has started. Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Chinese defense ministry, said on Thursday that “construction of infrastructure for the support facilities has started, and the Chinese side has dispatched personnel to Djibouti for relevant work.” China has been careful to avoid describing its facility in Djibouti as a “military” or “naval” base, preferring to use the terms “support facilities” or “logistical facilities” instead. Djibouti hosts military and support facilities for the United States, France, and even Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces.
According to Wu, China will use the bases primarily to ensure that PLAN ships carrying out anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, western Indian Ocean, and the Arabian and Red Seas are able to resupply and receive maintenance without making the long journey across the Indian Ocean to Chinese naval bases on the mainland. Wu added that the “facilities will mainly be used for logistical support and personnel recuperation of the Chinese armed forces conducting such missions as maritime escort in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.”