Beijing will consider Seychelles base offer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am


China has confirmed it will consider using the Indian Ocean Seychelles islands as a supply base for naval vessels operating in the region.

Foreign media reported earlier this month that Seychelles officials had invited Beijing to establish a military presence in the archipelago to strengthen the fight against piracy. The country comprises 115 islands off the east coast of Africa, just south of the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, where the People's Liberation Army Navy has been part of an international effort to escort commercial vessels since 2008.

The request was made during Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie's visit to the Seychelles, the first by a Chinese defence minister since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1976.

A report on the Ministry of National Defence's website said the Seychelles had invited the navy to use Seychelles for supply and rest stops as a token of gratitude for its efforts in ensuring the safety of the Indian Ocean and support for the country.

'It is common practice for all navies of the world to seek supplies in nearby international ports while carrying out long-distance missions,' a ministry officer said. 'Since the Chinese navy began its escort mission ... it has obtained supplies in the ports of countries like Djibouti, Oman and Yemen. According to the needs of the escort mission and other long-distance missions, China will also consider obtaining supplies from, and resting at, suitable ports in the Seychelles and other countries.'

Shanghai military expert Ni Lexiong said the Seychelles was a good choice if a permanent base was needed. 'The unprecedented visit by the defence minister ... could certainly be seen as a move of some sort,' Ni said, adding it was only a matter of time before China would have to build a permanent base offshore.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse