Beijing (Reuters): Ships carrying Chinese military personnel for Beijing's first overseas military base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, have left China to begin setting up the facility as China's rapidly modernizing military hones its global reach.
Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worries in India that it would become another of China's "string of pearls" of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
China began construction of a logistics base in strategically located Djibouti last year that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.
This will be China's first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.
State news agency Xinhua said in a short report late on Tuesday the ships had departed from Zhanjiang in southern China "to set up a support base in Djibouti".
Navy commander Shen Jinlong "read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti" but the report did not say when the base might formally begin operations.
Xinhua said the establishment of the base was a decision made by both countries after "friendly negotiations, and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides".
"The base will ensure China's performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia," it said.
"The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways," the Xinhua report.
Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) salute from a ship sailing off from a military port in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, July 11, 2017.Stringer