The Chinese military has for the first time staged live-fire drills at the country's first overseas base opened recently in the Horn of Africa, near the strategic Straits of Hormuz in Djibouti.
Photo from Zha Chunming, Global Look Press
Less than two months after inaugurating and deploying troops to China's first foreign naval military base abroad, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA) held live-fire drills for the first time in this east African location on Friday, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.
Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, is strategically located in the entrance from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and lies at the gateway to the busy Suez Canal. It provides a port to neighboring landlocked Ethiopia. It is considered one of the key middle-east energy chokepoints.
"This is the first time our soldiers stationed in Djibouti have left the camp to conduct combat training,” base commander Liang Yang said according to the SCMP. “The live-fire training will help explore a new training model for the [Chinese] overseas garrison.”
Scores of Chinese officers participated in the shooting exercise, which took place at the country’s national gendarmerie training range where the Chinese dispatched armored vehicles and used pistols, automatic rifles and machine guns to strike practice targets.
China’s first overseas military facility was inaugurated on August 1 after being under construction for more than a year. China’s military presence in Djibouti will continue until 2026, with a contingent of up to 10,000 soldiers. Beijing has long wanted to use its several footholds in Africa to seek closer ties with nations on the continent that could help it gain access to natural resources and provide new markets.
China says it will use the base to assist anti-piracy operations and United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and West Asia. Beijing also says it will use the base to facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises. China may also be seeking to counter the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force presence, which has maintained a small contingent at its base in Djibouti since 2011.
Immediately after China wrapped up its drills, the Japanese forces in the country began their own military exercises, reportedly practicing the protection of Japanese nationals abroad. The third drills of their kind, according to the Japanese media, are taking place September 25-October 2.
As we reported previously, in addition to Chinese and Japanese military, the tiny but strategically important African country, also hosts troops and military bases for the United States, France and several other countries.