Chinese plan ‘to build African naval base’ worries US officials

A plan by China to build a military base in West Africa is raising alarm among US officials, reports say.

Beijing is lobbying the government of Equatorial Guinea to build a "permanent military presence" in the small country, reports The Wall Street Journal.

If it goes ahead, the installation would give China its first naval base in the Atlantic Ocean.

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China has already built a commercial deepwater facility in the port city of Bata in Equatorial Guinea.

Reports about a potential Chinese naval base in west Africa have triggered concern in Washington.

It would enable Chinese warships to be based opposite the American east coast in a secure port where they can re-arm and refit.

And the push by China sparked a flurry of diplomatic lobbying by the Biden Administration.

Deputy US National Security Adviser Jon Finer visited Equatorial Guinea in October on a mission to persuade its government to reject the Chinese plan for a military base.

Currently, the Chinese navy has only one base outside of China, in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa.

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Earlier this year, a top US general warned Beijing is looking to establish a large navy port capable of hosting submarines or aircraft carriers on Africa's western coast.

General Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Africa, said China has approached countries stretching from Mauritania to the south of Namibia, intent on establishing a naval facility.

"They're looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships. That becomes militarily useful in conflict," General Townsend said.

"They're a long way toward establishing that in Djibouti. Now they're casting their gaze to the Atlantic coast and wanting to get such a base there."

China has started a major expansion of its People's Liberation Army Navy.

It plans to expand the fleet from its current 355 ships and submarines to a force of 460 vessels within nine years.

– With AP

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