Foreign media on Tuesday claimed that a Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ship recently docked at the PLA Support Base in Djibouti "for the first time," in an obvious attempt to hype the "China threat" theory. But analysts said that such a docking would be normal so the PLA vessels that carry out escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia can get replenishment, and the Chinese military presence contributes to regional peace and stability, not the other way around as some foreign media claimed.
The Type 903A comprehensive supply ship Luomahu recently made a port call at the PLA Support Base in Djibouti, the Voice of America reported on Tuesday, citing an analysis on commercial satellite imagery by US defense analyst H I Sutton.
The Voice of America report claimed that while the Chinese base started construction in March 2016, this is the first time a PLA vessel has docked there.
While the Chinese military has not announced this as of press time, the Luomahu is part of the 40th fleet of the PLA Navy to conduct an escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, which set out from China on January 15, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency at the time.
The special force unit on board the Luomahu recently held a rescue exercise under a realistic combat scenario in the Gulf of Aden, the PLA Daily reported on Tuesday.
It would be normal for a replenishment ship in an escort task force to stop by at the support base in Djibouti to load supplies that can help sustain the counter-terrorism and anti-piracy escort mission, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times on Tuesday, requesting anonymity.
For example, the comprehensive supply ship Taihu of the 39th escort task force completed contact-free loading of the first batch of supplies, which were purchased through domestic channels, while being berthed at the Port of Djibouti, a commercial port, on December 1, 2021, China Military Online reported at the time, noting that in preparation for the replenishment, the PLA Support Base in Djibouti had managed to purchase non-staple food and other supplies through domestic channels and transported them by merchant ships in cold-chain storage.
By making the supply loading directly at the dock of the base, it would further reduce the risk of COVID-19 contamination and simplify the process, analysts said.
In May 2018, the Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed that the PLA Support Base in Djibouti was building a new port to better carry out international obligations like escort and humanitarian aid missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, and this would also contribute to Djibouti's economic and social development, while also allowing China to make new and bigger contributions to safeguarding peace and stability in Africa and the world.
Foreign media have been hyping the "China threat" theory with the PLA Support Base in Djibouti since its construction, but they failed to understand or intentionally ignored that the base was built to contribute to regional peace and stability, and enables China to take its responsibilities as a major power in the world and provide public security goods, the expert said, noting that China is not like the US, which has the most overseas military bases and uses them to serve its hegemony.
The Voice of America report also said that the Chinese facility is just down the road from a major US base, and is near port facilities used by many navies including EU and NATO countries.
The report is trying to indicate that Djibouti is the sphere of influence of the US and NATO, and China's military support base is a risk to the US' dominance in the Red Sea and Africa, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
It is also a reflection that the West led by the US has a huge difference with China in the concept of a military base, as the US' military bases around the world are built to enhance its military presence, while China's support base in Djibouti is aimed at supporting escort, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid missions, Song stressed.