The same day, a ceremony for the Chinese sailors embarking to the base in Djibouti was held in the southeastern city of Zhanjiang in Guangdong province, China. Tens of thousands of Chinese nationals are also employed on the continent, working as labourers and engineers on infrastructure projects – another reason Beijing wanted stable access, said Liu Naiya, an expert in West Asian and African affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China began construction of a logistics base in Djibouti in 2016. It’s not a business resupply point.

After it showed interest in opening such a base in 2015, Beijing has reiterated many times that the facility would not be for military expansion but to provide logistics support to global activities and protection of maritime routes.

China’s military base in Djibouti will be established just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a decision that Washington says would raise “security concerns”.

According to Chinese State media, the base will be used for peace keeping missions and humanitarian aid in the area, but also may be used for military tasks overseas and securing strategic seaways.

China would not seek military expansionism or get into arms races no matter what happened, it said.

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Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal.

China previously stated that the logistics center will further support anti-piracy, United Nations peacekeeping and several humanitarian relief missions in western Asia and Africa.

In 2015 Chinese President Xi Jinping committed 8,000 troops to the UN peacekeeping standby force – one fifth of the 40,000 total troops committed by 50 nations – China also pledged $100 million to the African Union standby force and $1 billion to establish the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund. In addition, the US operates an airfield in Djibouti from which the Pentagon launches drone strikes in the region. The Djibouti base is likely to be the first of many to follow around the world and will become a testing ground for China’s more proactive foreign policy.

Beijing began construction of a logistics military base in the small country on the Red Sea previous year.

But American military leaders have said they don’t see it as a threat that will interfere with US operations there.