DJIBOUTI CITY, 23 April 2021 – A completed Chinese pier at its naval base near the entrance of the Red Sea can support an aircraft carrier, U.S. military authorities have said.
The People’s Liberation Army is expanding its existing naval installation adjacent to a Chinese-owned commercial deep-water port, U.S. Africa Commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.
The Chinese are also seeking other military options elsewhere on the African continent, Gen. Townsend told members of the congressional committee.
“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,” Townsend told the hearing.
Formally opened in 2017, the base was developed to support the Chinese anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.
It has since expanded to include capabilities to serve as a logistical resupply hub for China’s blue-water capital ships like its new large deck Type-075 amphibious warship or domestically-designed Type 002 aircraft carrier, according to analysts.
Construction of the 1,120-foot pier started in 2018 and is believed to be “just long enough to accommodate China’s new aircraft carriers, assault carriers or other large warships,” Townsend said.
The pier “could easily accommodate four of China’s nuclear-powered attack submarines, if required,” Townsend added.
The United States and France also have installations in the vicinity of the Chinese base.
U.S. Camp Lemonnier is an easy drive from the expanding Chinese base, and American troops have complained of harassment from their Chinese “neighbors”, including lasers directed at U.S. aircraft.