Djibouti 'first of many China military bases'

People's Liberation Army personnel at the opening ceremony of China's military base in Djibouti on Aug 1. The army announced the establishment of the logistics support base in July.
People's Liberation Army personnel at the opening ceremony of China's military base in Djibouti on Aug 1. The army announced the establishment of the logistics support base in July.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Expansion may bring country's interests into conflict with US': Intelligence officials

WASHINGTON • China's first overseas military base in the small African country of Djibouti is "probably the first of many" the country intends to build around the world, which could bring its interests into conflict with those of the US, according to American intelligence officials.

"China has the fastest-modernising military in the world next to the United States," according to insights provided on Thursday by US intelligence officials, who asked not to be identified.

That will create "new areas of intersection and potentially conflicting security interests between China and the United States and other countries abroad", they said.

The People's Liberation Army announced the establishment of a logistics support base in Djibouti in July, saying it would back up the Chinese military's naval escort, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in Africa and western Asia, as well as military exercises and emergency evacuation.

As part of China's expanding military and economic clout, the country is taking a stronger stance on territorial claims in the South China Sea, relations with Taiwan and in promoting its Belt and Road Initiative.

Where Chinese interests conflict with the US, Beijing is "actively seeking to undermine US influence", according to the officials.

The rare comments on how US intelligence agencies view China's ambitions come as Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks to consolidate support at this month's Communist Party Congress, held every five years.

US President Donald Trump plans to visit China next month. While the two countries have found areas of cooperation, including over United Nations sanctions against North Korea, they have unresolved disagreements over trade, Beijing's territorial claims and Syria's civil war.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, visiting Beijing last month, stressed his intent to cut the US trade deficit with the world's largest exporter through "increased exports of high-value US goods and services to China and improved market access".

He also announced a probe into China's stainless steel flanges for alleged unfair subsidies, the latest move after the US trade representative opened a probe into China's intellectual property practices.

According to the intelligence officials, "Chinese leaders see the US-led world order, most notably the US alliance network and promotion of US values worldwide, as constraining China's rise and are attempting to reshape the world order to better suit Chinese preferences and growing clout".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2017, with the headline 'Djibouti 'first of many China military bases''. Print Edition | Subscribe