Work acceleration sought for Djibouti facility to aid peacekeeping, humanitarian missions
Work on a key Chinese overseas logistical facility must be accelerated, with planning and quality a priority, in order to provide stronger support for overseas missions, a senior military official said.
Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, met with officers working at China's first overseas supply facility in Djibouti, the Defense Ministry said on Friday. Fan was the first senior military official to visit the facility.
The purpose of the supply facility, on which construction began in February, is to resupply Chinese naval ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, the ministry said.
Earlier reports said the supply hub has the capacity to house 10,000 personnel and is scheduled to be finished next year.
Djibouti was the last leg of Fan's four-nation tour, which concluded on Thursday. It also took him to Lebanon, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
During his meeting with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, Fan said the two countries had achieved remarkable results in personnel training, naval escorts and supplies, and participation in UN peacekeeping operations.
China is willing to work with Djibouti to promote the healthy and stable development of relations between the militaries, Fan added.
Djibouti, at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, is surrounded by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Djibouti also hosts U.S., Japanese and French military bases.
Since 2008, China has sent 24 naval escort fleets to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia's waters, escorting more than 6,000 ships from home and abroad, the Defense Ministry said.
China is also the second-largest financial sponsor of UN peacekeeping operations. It has deployed more personnel than any nation on the Security Council — more than 30,000 for 24 peacekeeping missions.
Piracy requires escort fleets to ensure safe shipping, and Djibouti is an ideal spot for a supply facility, given its proximity to the main mission area, said Liu Naiya, a researcher at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Ma Gang, a professor at PLA National Defense University, said the scale and function of the Chinese supply facility is different from that of a military base.
The Djibouti facility means that Chinese fleets are no longer so dependent on other countries for food and fuel resupplies. "The cost of operation (resupplying in other countries) is limiting China's escort fleet size and peacekeeping effort," Ma said.
"But a home logistic hub can provide supplies efficiently and economically."