Chinese People's Liberation Army Support Base in Djibouti

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Chinese People's Liberation Army Support Base in Djibouti
Area0.5 km2
Site information
OwnerCentral Military Commission
Operator People's Liberation Army Navy
Open to
the public
Site history
In useAugust 1, 2017 (2017-08-01)
Garrison information
Liang Yang
Chinese People's Liberation Army Support Base in Djibouti
Traditional Chinese中國人民解放軍駐吉布提保障基地
Simplified Chinese中国人民解放军驻吉布提保障基地
Literal meaningChina People Liberation Army in-Djibouti Support Base

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Support Base in Djibouti is a military base operated by the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), located in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. It is the PLAN's first overseas military base and was built at a cost of US$590 million.[1] The facility is expected to significantly increase China's power projection capabilities in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean.[2][3][4] As of 2017, the base commander is Liang Yang.[5]

Djibouti is strategically situated by the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Gulf of Aden from the Red Sea and guards the approaches to the Suez Canal. The Chinese base is located by the Chinese-operated Port of Doraleh to the west of Djibouti City. To the south of the city are several other foreign military bases, including Camp Lemonnier (United States Navy),[6] Base aerienne 188 (French Air Force),[7] and the Japan Self-Defense Force Base Djibouti.[8][9]


Negotiations for China to create a strategic base in Djibouti began with President Ismail Omar Guelleh in approximately 2015.[10] Negotiations were concluded in January 2016, with China and Djibouti having "reached consensus" on the construction of naval facilities.[11][12]

On July 11, 2017, the People’s Liberation Army Navy dispatched ships from the South Sea Fleet in Zhanjiang to open the base officially.[13][14] The base was formally opened on August 1, 2017.[15][16] The first live fire exercises were conducted on September 22, 2017.[5][17]

Around May 2018, China began constructing a large-scale pier (over 330 meters in length) at the base.[18]


China has stated that the facility will serve primarily to support military logistics for Chinese troops in the Gulf of Aden, and peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Africa.[2][19] It also bolsters the Chinese navy's efforts to prevent piracy on high seas.[2][4][20][21]

The base is 0.5 square kilometres (0.2 sq mi) in size and staffed by approximately 400 personnel.[22][23] The base has a 400m runway with an air traffic control tower.[24] The base also houses the PLA Support Base Hospital in Djibouti.[25]

Tensions with foreign militaries[edit]

The presence of a Chinese base in close proximity to a US base has created geopolitical tensions. The United States had blocked a Russian base in 2014 and started a US$1 billion upgrade of Camp Lemonnier. US government officials were "blindsided" by Djibouti's approval of a Chinese base just two years later.[4] Djiboutian President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh claimed that the United States had a "fixation" about the Chinese base and complained "incessantly" that the Chinese were hampering their operations. He also said that the Japanese were even more worried than the Americans. Guelleh said that the Chinese would have no problem cohabiting with Western powers if they didn't "spy constantly" on the Chinese.[23]

According to Chinese prosecutor Jian Jiamin, the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force sent divers to approach a Chinese warship while it was docked at the base, who were detected and driven off.[5][26]

In 2018, the United States Department of Defense issued a NOTAM reporting instances of laser attacks against pilots flying near the base.[27] The Chinese Defense Ministry called the accusations "untrue" and asked the United States "to not swiftly speculate or make accusations."[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zhou, Laura (April 17, 2017). "How a Chinese investment boom is changing the face of Djibouti". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017. About half an hour’s drive west of the restaurant, a Chinese military base is surreptitiously taking shape near the dusty construction site of the China-funded, US$590 million Doraleh Multipurpose Port.
  2. ^ a b c Paice, Edward (May 30, 2017). "Djibouti Wins Jackpot – Renting Out Desert for Military Bases". The Cipher Brief. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  3. ^ Huneke, Douglas (April 19, 2017). "The Ghost of Zheng He: China's Naval Base in Djibouti". University of California, Berkeley. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Jacobs, Andrew; Perlez, Jane (February 25, 2017). "U.S. Wary of Its New Neighbor in Djibouti: A Chinese Naval Base". The New York Times. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Chan, Minnie (September 25, 2017). "Live-fire show of force by troops from China's first overseas military base". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on September 26, 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  6. ^ "Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations". Washington Post. 26 October 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  7. ^ "Les forces françaises stationnées à Djibouti". Retrieved 2017-01-14.
  8. ^ "防衛省、ジブチの自衛隊拠点を来年度拡張 基地建設の中国に対抗". Newsweek日本版 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  9. ^ Pieper, Dietmar (8 February 2018). "Geopolitical Laboratory: How Djibouti Became China's Gateway To Africa". Spiegel Online.
  10. ^ Agence France-Presse (May 9, 2015). "China 'negotiates military base' in Djibouti". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017. China is negotiating a military base in a strategic port of Djibouti, the president said, according to the AFP news agency. [...] "Discussions are ongoing," President Ismail Omar Guelleh said in an interview in Djibouti, saying Beijing's presence would be "welcome".
  11. ^ Chappell, Bill (January 21, 2016). "China Reaches Deal To Build Military Outpost In Djibouti". NPR. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017. Cementing a deal that has been hinted at for months, China is moving forward to build what's believed to be its first overseas military facility, in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti. The outpost is meant to bolster the Chinese navy's efforts to prevent piracy. [...] He added that China and Djibouti have "reached consensus" on building the facilities, a plan that Chinese officials spoke about publicly last fall.
  12. ^ "Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Regular Press Conference on January 21, 2016". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China. January 21, 2016. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017. China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities in Djibouti, which will enable the Chinese troops to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability.
  13. ^ Gao, Charlotte (July 12, 2017). "China Officially Sets Up Its First Overseas Base in Djibouti". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. In the early morning of July 11, China held an official ceremony in the port of Zhanjiang, south China’s Guangdong province. The commander of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Shen Jinlong, “read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti, and conferred military flag on the fleets.” Then Shen ordered, “Set off!” and the ships carrying Chinese military personnel departed the port, reported Xinhua.
  14. ^ An, ed. (July 11, 2017). "China sets up base in Djibouti". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Ships carrying Chinese military personnel departed Zhanjiang in southern China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday to set up a support base in Djibouti.
  15. ^ Blanchard, Ben (August 1, 2017). Perry, Michael (ed.). "China formally opens first overseas military base in Djibouti". Reuters. Retrieved August 1, 2017. China formally opened its first overseas military base on Tuesday with a flag raising ceremony in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, the same day as the People's Liberation Army marks its 90th birthday, state media said.
  16. ^ "China's first overseas military base opens in Djibouti". 2 August 2017.
  17. ^ Headley, Tyler (December 4, 2018). "China's Djibouti Base: A One Year Update". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on December 6, 2018. The opening ceremony on August 1, 2017 was followed a month and a half later with live fire exercises.
  18. ^ Binnie, Jeremy (May 23, 2018). "China building pier at Djibouti base". Jane's Information Group.
  19. ^ Li, Ruohan (July 5, 2018). "Investors feel more 'assured, confident' by presence of China's base in Djibouti". Global Times. Archived from the original on July 5, 2018. China has stressed that the base is not military in nature and functions as a supply base for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.
  20. ^ Zhang, Tao, ed. (April 12, 2016). "PLA's first overseas base in Djibouti". China Military Online. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  21. ^ Huang, Kristen (May 13, 2017). "Chinese defence adviser says Djibouti naval facility is a much-needed 'military base'". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on May 14, 2017. China is constructing a naval base in Djibouti to provide what it calls logistical support in one of the world’s busiest waterways. The defence ministry said in a statement last year that the facility was mostly for resupply purposes for anti-piracy, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.
  22. ^ Lin, Jeffrey; Singe, P.W. (July 13, 2017). "China just deployed to its first overseas base". Popular Science. The base—roughly half a square kilometer—is reported to be soon be staffed by about a battalion-size formation, or about 1,000 personnel.
  23. ^ a b Soudan, François (4 April 2017). "Personne d'autre que les Chinois n'offre un partenariat à long terme à Djibouti". Jeune Afrique (in French).
  24. ^ Bhat, Vinayak (September 27, 2017). "China's mega fortress in Djibouti could be model for its bases in Pakistan". Printline Media Pvt. Ltd.
  25. ^ Liu, Wenping; Su, Zhihong. Li, Jiayao (ed.). "Chinese naval doctors carry on "Bright Eyes Operation" in Djibouti". China Military.
  26. ^ Lo, Kinling (August 2, 2017). "Japanese frogmen approached Chinese warship at Djibouti, state media say". South China Morning Post. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  27. ^ Zhen, Liu (May 2, 2018). "US warns airmen to beware of laser attacks near China's military base in Djibouti". South China Morning Post. The military issued a Notice to Airmen, later reproduced on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s website, that there had been multiple events “involving a high-power laser” just 750 metres (2,400ft) from China’s base in Djibouti.
  28. ^ Nebehay, Stephanie. "U.S. warns on Russia's new space weapons". Reuters.

Coordinates: 11°35′25″N 43°03′47″E / 11.59023°N 43.06312°E / 11.59023; 43.06312