The Republic of Djibouti has signed a preliminary $1 billion deal with a Hong Kong company to build a facility to launch satellites and rockets in the African nation where the Chinese Communist regime has established a military base.
Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh signed the partnership agreement with Hong Kong Aerospace Technology on Jan. 10 for a five-year project to ensure the safe transportation of aerospace materials.
Guelleh said the project will include the construction of a port and highway in the northern Obock region. The infrastructure will be transferred to Djibouti after 30 years of co-management with the Hong Kong company, he added.
“I am delighted to see our country commit to this promising technological and energy development project. The agreement provides for the final concession of the infrastructure built to the Djiboutian side after 30 years of co-management,” he said on Twitter.
The agreement follows a visit by a Hong Kong Aerospace Technology delegation to Djibouti on Jan. 4 to discuss business cooperation with the government. The firm promised to provide a “win-win situation” and promote cooperation with the Djibouti side, according to its statement.
China’s Naval Base
General Stephen Townsend, then-Commander of the U.S. Africa Command, said in April 2021 that the Chinese regime’s naval capability includes a facility at its modernized base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa that’s capable of supporting the country’s growing aircraft carrier force.
“Their first overseas military base, their only one, is in Africa, and they have just expanded that by adding a significant pier that can even support their aircraft carriers in the future. Around the continent, they are looking for other basing opportunities,” Townsend told the House Armed Services Committee on Apr. 20, 2021.
Beijing opened its base in Djibouti in 2017; it sits just 7.4 miles (12 kilometers) from Camp Lemonnier, which is home to about 4,500 U.S. military personnel and the primary base of operations for the U.S. African Command. Several other countries also have a base in Djibouti, including France, Japan, and Italy.
The presence of so many different military bases is due to Djibouti’s strategic location—it sits next to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea; the latter is the gateway to the Suez Canal. About 12 percent of world trade passes through the Suez Canal every day.
Chinese military officials have publicly denied that its Djibouti base was intended for “military expansion” and claimed that the base was needed to support anti-piracy and humanitarian relief missions.
But Townsend told the committee that China “very much ha[s] the intent to establish additional overseas bases in Africa, whether that be on the Atlantic coast of Africa or the Indian Ocean coast of Africa.”
“China is of great concern. They are literally everywhere on the continent. They are placing a lot of bets down. They are spending a lot of money,” Townsend said.
Frank Fang contributed to this report.