China considers Seychelles port offer, denies base plan
Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:48pm GMT
(Adds information on Chinese ship in East China Sea)
By Chris Buckley
BEIJING Dec 13 (Reuters) - China will consider turning to the Seychelles as
a resupply port for navy ships taking part in anti-piracy operations off
Africa, official media said, rejecting suggestions this would amount to a
military base that could unsettle the region.
Chinese ships participating in a multi-nation campaign against pirates
striking out from Somalia have already used ports in Djibouti, Oman, and
Yemen to repair and to take aboard supplies, according to the Chinese
A resupply port in the Seychelles, an island country in the western Indian
Ocean 1,600 km (1,000 miles) off the African coast, could raise concerns in
India, which has been wary of China's growing military reach.
The Chinese Ministry of Defence, however, said the Seychelles proposal was
still just under consideration.
"According to escort needs and the needs of other long-range missions, China
will consider seeking supply facilities at appropriate harbours in the
Seychelles or other countries," the ministry said on Monday, according to
the China Daily.
"This approach is transparent, and there's no cause for worry," the Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters, referring to those
"China has no plans for establishing military bases abroad," said Liu,
adding that he had not heard of any ideas of stationing personnel or
aircraft on the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands.
Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie visited the Seychelles earlier this
Li Jie, a scholar at China's Naval Military Studies Institute, told the
paper that "as China will not send troops to protect the supply stop in the
Seychelles, by no means can it be called an overseas military base".
In an effort to douse fears about Chinese plans, Beijing has repeatedly said
it does not want military bases abroad.
In 2009, Chinese officials distanced themselves from comments by a rear
admiral, Wu Shengli, who urged the nation to set up navy supply bases
overseas for the anti-piracy fight.
Chinese ships have undertaken anti-piracy operations off Somalia since late
2008, and in early 2010 Beijing agreed to join the multi-nation effort to
protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden and nearby stretches of the Indian
Experts have said the effort has helped China master some of the logistical
challenges of operating naval forces far from their home ports.
But the growing reach of China's navy is raising regional concerns that have
fed into longstanding territorial disputes in energy-rich waters in the East
and South China seas.
China on Tuesday sent its biggest maritime patrol ship to the East China
Sea, the Xinhua news agency reported, where it will visit oil and gas fields
at the heart of a protracted and sometimes volatile territorial dispute with
China Marine Surveillance, a maritime law enforcement agency which also
conducts environmental patrols, said the recently built 3,000-tonne Haijian
50 will visit the Chunxiao and Pinghu oil and gas fields in the sea.
Xinhua said that the voyage would help "guard the country's territorial
rights and marine interests", but did not say whether the ship will approach
seas that Japan deems to be its exclusive economic zone.
China and Japan have long been at odds over China's exploration for natural
gas in the East China Sea and over a group of uninhabited islets there,
called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
In 2008, Beijing and Tokyo agreed in principle to resolve the dispute by
jointly developing gas fields, but progress has been slow and Japan has
accused China of drilling for gas in violation of the deal.
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Paul Tait and Ron
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Tue Dec 13 2011 - 14:55:42 EST