Report: Large Chinese Naval Base in Djibouti Nears Completion

Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh, left, poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a photo before their bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)
AP Photo/Andy Wong

China is now close to completing the construction of a large naval base in Djibouti. Forbes magazine reported Monday that the base will soon be ready to receive large warships and possibly aircraft carriers, describing it as a “modern-day fortress built from scratch.”

China began construction on the base in 2016, leaving its walls largely complete by the following year. Since then, the base has been built up into a seemingly impenetrable military fortress with multiple layers of defense.

Among the many layers of security are base walls made out of Hesco Style barriers with razor wire running along the top. As explained by Forbes’s H.I. Sutton:

Hesco barriers are wire frames filled with giant sandbags. They are commonly used by Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the main walls of fortified bases. Here they are relegated to just being an outer wall.

Inside the Hesco wall is the main wall built out of concrete. It has crenelations, meaning the up-and-down style battlements familiar from medieval castles. There are also gun loops, which are holes to fire weapons through. And there are tall towers on the corners.

As well as the physical defensive layers, the base is also reportedly housing marine forces and armored vehicles, including ZBD-09 infantry fighting vehicles, all equipped automatic cannons, anti-tank missiles, and high-caliber guns.

Despite its population of around 850,000, Djibouti is already home to military bases from the United States, Japan, and France, the country’s former colonial rulers, although none of them come close to comparing with size and modernness the Chinese base. Djibouti is located in far eastern Africa, offering easy access to the Arabian Peninsula.

Like many of its African neighbors, Djibouti is also already home to some of the numerous Chinese-led infrastructure projects that employ more than one million Chinese workers across the continent.

Although most analysts believe the base is part of a wider effort by Beijing to achieve economic and dominance around the world, China insists that its primary role will be providing assistance to Chinese warships operating in the region in anti-piracy and humanitarian operations.

“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia,” state media noted in 2017. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining the security of international strategic seaways.”

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