April 18 (UPI) — China has not stopped investing in Djibouti, a country in East Africa bordering on Somalia and Ethiopia.
Beijing continues to construct a military base and a large $590 million port near Djibouti City, South China Morning Post reported.
The Chinese government confirmed the base was being built in 2015, and said the move would benefit United Nations peacekeeping missions and counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
But the base is also being built with China’s economic interests in mind, according to the report.
China, a major investor in Djibouti, is linking the country on the Horn of Africa to President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” initiative: an international trade and infrastructure project that will connect China’s coastal regions to Africa, Asia and the Middle East through a maritime route.
The Export-Import Bank of China has invested in at least eight projects in the region: a $322 million water pipeline extending to Ethiopia, a $490 million Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway and a $450 million airport in the city of Bicidley, south of Djibouti’s capital.
The military base is part of Beijing’s plan to continue with its “maritime military struggle,” and to overcome conventional thinking that “land outweighs sea,” according to its 2015 defense white paper.
In state media, China has defended the base construction, citing evacuations of Chinese nationals from nearby Yemen and Libya during recent conflicts.
In March 2016, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it was “reasonable and in line with international practice” for China to build in regions such as Africa “where China’s interests are concentrated.”
The United States and Japan also retain bases in Djibouti, about 6 miles from the Chinese base.