China conducts live-fire show of force near US base, first time overseas

China’s People’s Liberation Army are conducting live-fire drills in Africa, a historical first in terms of overseas training and a sign of China’s re-emergence to the global military stage.

The exercises -which involved the Marine branch of the People’s Liberation Army Navy- took place right outside China’s first overseas garrison in Djibouti, less than two months after the first troops arrived to set up camp.

The US military has maintained Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent US military base in Africa, in Djibouti since 2001. The Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the U.S. Africa Command is the most notable command located at the base.

“Analysts say the base is part of China’s efforts to establish a truly global naval force that’s capable of conducting operations around the world — a so-called “blue water navy” — though Chinese state media has pushed back on suggestions that Beijing will flex its muscles globally,” CNN reported in August.

According to Chinese state-run media sources, the exercise was meant to test the troops’ ability to handle the region’s hot temperatures, humidity, and salinity.

“This is the first time our soldiers stationed in Djibouti have left the camp to conduct combat training,” base commander Liang Yang reported. “The live-fire training will help explore a new training model for the [Chinese] overseas garrison.”

PLAN Marines conducted the arid exercises in their signature blue digital camouflage uniforms, sticking out worse than the Army’s OCP pattern, which is currently being phased out of service.

The tiny African nation is host to several militaries, including the United States.

Chinese state-run media claims that not everyone is happy about the exercises, Japanese frogmen reportedly got too close to PLAN vessels off the African coast and were dispersed with “a strong light and a verbal warning.”

According to the South China Morning Post, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force established a base in Djibouti in 2011, and Tokyo said last year it was considering expanding the facility.

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