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China sends forces to first military base abroad

China has dispatched military personnel to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti to man the rising Asian giant's first overseas military base.

The defence ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval pier in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong.

It said members of its People's Liberation Army (PLA) would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China said the logistics centre will support anti-piracy, UN peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia.

It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China's growing economic and political footprint.

Djibouti is already home to the centre of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.

Multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden that China joined in 2008 have also given its navy ready access to the Mediterranean, and, in 2011, it took the unprecedented step of sending one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.

In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. The same year, it took part in its first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.

AP

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