China to establish Seychelles naval base?

Media accounts widely differ on an offer being extended by Seychelles for naval forces of the People’s Republic of China to have access to the African island nation. The offer was apparently made when a delegation from the People’s Liberation Army arrived in Seychelles on Dec. 1, headed by China’s defense minister, Gen. Liang Guanglie. An account by Eurasia Review states that an agreement was signed for China to set up a naval base in the Seychelles, to police the region against pirates operating out of Somalia. The LA Times’ World Now blog says the Chinese Defense Ministry denies the facility would rise to the level of a naval base, but also notes a study by US government consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton finding that China is seeking to acquire a “string of pearls” across the Indian Ocean for eventual encirclement of India. Ironically, Voice of America portrays the deal in the least alarmist terms, saying it would be a refueling facility, and that China has not yet committed to it.

AFP notes that President Hu Jintao told the Central Military Commission this week that the navy should modernize in the interest of national security and “make extended preparations for military combat.” The development comes amid growing signs from the White House of a new cold war with China.

See our last post on China in Africa.

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