The top U.S. general for Africa warned that Beijing is looking to establish a large naval port on Africa’s western coast, voicing his concerns about the growing threat rising up from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who heads U.S. Africa Command, told The Associated Press that the large navy port would be capable of hosting submarines and aircraft carriers.
China has reportedly approached countries from Mauritania to the south of Namibia, searching for a place to establish a naval facility that would allow China to base its ships in the Atlantic Ocean.
“They’re looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships. That becomes militarily useful in conflict,” 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.”
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Townsend’s warnings come among others from U.S. military commanders around the world who have said that China is growing its economic influence over countries in Africa, South America and the Middle East.
“The Chinese are outmaneuvering the US in select countries in Africa,” Townsend said.
“Port projects, economic endeavors, infrastructure and their agreements and contracts will lead to greater access in the future. They are hedging their bets and making big bets on Africa.”
The Defense Department’s 2020 report on China’s military power said that the nation has considered adding military facilities to support its naval, air and ground forces.
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President Joe Biden has referred to the United States’ “growing rivalry with China” as “the biggest geopolitical test” of the century, according to CNBC.
“It is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” the Biden administration’s 24-page document on national security policies stated.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken added, “Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.”
China’s first overseas naval base was built in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and currently has as many as 2,000 military personnel stationed at the base, the AP reported.
“They have arms and munitions for sure. They have armored combat vehicles,” Townsend said.
“We think they will soon be basing helicopters there to potentially include attack helicopters.”
Townsend added that while China has been trying to get a base in Tanzania, that is not the location he is most worried about.
“I want it to be in Tanzania instead of on the Atlantic coast. The Atlantic coast concerns me greatly.”
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