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China forges 'strategic' ties with Djibouti after opening base, grants aid

The base will be used to resupply navy ships participating in peacekeeping, humanitarian and anti-piracy missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia

Reuters  |  Beijing 

China, Djibouti,naval base, strategic ties,Ismail Omar Guelleh
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Photo: Reuters

on Thursday offered loans to Djibouti, the site of its first overseas military base, as the Horn of state's leader told President he considered himself a great friend of the Asian giant.

With a population of less than one million, has long punched above its weight, thanks to a strategic location on the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping routes linking Europe to and the

formally opened the base, which it calls a logistics facility, on August 1, the 90th birthday of the People's Liberation Army. also hosts large US and French bases.

was politically stable, Xi told its president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, at a meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

"sets great store by its relations with Djibouti," he added.

Guelleh, who has been in power since 1999, said he considered himself a "great friend of China's" and could not count the number of times he had visited.

"is known for being a country of peace, exchanges and meetings," Guelleh said.

"I would like to recall the geostrategic position of and its importance in this part of the world as an island of stability for Asia, and the "

The two, who did not mention the military base in comments to reporters, later oversaw the signing of a framework pact for preferential loans.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong declined to reveal the amount of loans offered, saying he could not remember.

"In this area both countries have always had good cooperation," Chen told reporters.

Xi and Guelleh did discuss the military base, Chen added.

"What I want to stress is that building a logistics base in benefits to even better fulfil its naval protection, peace-keeping, disaster relief and other work," he said.

The base will be used to resupply navy ships participating in peacekeeping, humanitarian and anti-piracy missions off the coasts of and Somalia, in particular.

also has deep economic interests in

Last week, China's POLY-GCL Petroleum Group Holdings Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding to invest $4 billion in a natural gas project in

In January, the government launched construction of a project billed as Africa's largest free trade zone, as part of China's massive initiative stretching to Asia, Europe and beyond.

First Published: Thu, November 23 2017. 19:17 IST