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The People's Liberation Army officially established its Djibouti Logistics Support Base on Tuesday, according to a news release from the PLA Navy.
Troops designated for the base in the Horn of Africa left for the facility, the first of its kind for the Chinese military, after a departure ceremony at a naval port in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, the Navy said.
The PLA Djibouti Logistics Support Base, located in Djibouti City, the African nation's capital, is a result of friendly negotiations by the governments of China and Djibouti and is in the interests of the two peoples, the PLA Navy said.
The base will support the Chinese military's naval escort, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in Africa and western Asia, the news release said. It will also help China to improve its capabilities in terms of international military cooperation, joint exercises, emergency evacuation and overseas rescue.
Moreover, the base will enable the nation to better safeguard the safety of international strategic maritime passages with other countries, it said.
Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, commander of the PLA Navy, announced an order on the base's establishment and conferred a flag to the base garrison at the ceremony.
The troops are carried by two ships－the CNS Jinggangshan, an amphibian landing craft, and CNS Donghaidao, a semi-submersible support ship, the news release said.
In November 2015, the Chinese military confirmed for the first time its interest in having a "support facility" in Djibouti. At the time, Wu Qian, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told a news conference that China was in talks with the African nation on this matter.
In February 2016, Wu said the two sides had reached an agreement on the base and the construction had begun.
In November, Yang Yujun, another spokesman for the ministry, said China plans to use the base to better implement its international obligations and to protect the nation's overseas interests but not to seek "military expansion".
Djibouti is a very small but stable nation in a vital area. It lies on a gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest shipping routes. It provides a vital port for Ethiopia, its landlocked neighbor, and it is a key refueling center.
The United States, France and Japan now have military bases in Djibouti.
General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, made a two-day visit to Djibouti in November 2016. It was the first time that the top officer in the PLA had visited the African country.