Economy

China hits out at US over Kenya military base claim

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Chinese soldiers marching in formation during a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 3, 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan and the end of World War II. AFP PHOTO

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Summary

  • The US department of defence, the Pentagon, in its annual report to Congress on China’s military, had alleged that Beijing was eyeing military logistics bases in a dozen African countries, including Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania.
  • The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi on Monday, however, rejected the Pentagon’s report, terming it propaganda.

China has dismissed reports that it is seeking to establish a military base in Kenya as part of a strategy to extend its power to Africa.

The US department of defence, the Pentagon, in its annual report to Congress on China’s military, had alleged that Beijing was eyeing military logistics bases in a dozen African countries, including Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania.

The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi on Monday, however, rejected the Pentagon’s report, terming it propaganda.

“The information mentioned...is totally false,” said Xueqing Huang, the Chief of Information and Public Affairs Section for the Embassy of China in Kenya, in an e-mailed response.

“Their (Pentagon) latest report is just the same as the previous fact-neglecting and bias-brimming.”

Ms Xueqing added: “The Chinese MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] spokesperson has urged them to stop issuing irresponsible reports year after year, and ‘abandon the outdated cold-war mentality and zero-sum game mindset.’”

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) had not responded to the Pentagon report by the time of going to press despite having promised to do so upon reviewing it.

The Pentagon report claimed that China was likely to have already commenced talks with Nairobi to set up a military outpost in Kenya.

“The PRC (Peoples Republic of China) has likely considered Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan as locations for PLA (People’s Liberation Army) military logistics facilities,” said the Pentagon in its annual report released last Tuesday.

“The PRC has probably already made overtures to Namibia, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. Known focus areas of PLA planning are along the SLOCs (Sea lines of communication) from China to the Strait of Hormuz, Africa, and the Pacific Islands.”

Beijing’s goal, the report said, is eventually to leverage its new military might to achieve its foreign policy objectives and to assert itself globally.

China has been funding multi-billion-shilling infrastructure projects in Kenya, including the new standard gauge railway between Nairobi and Mombasa, through debt.

Its One Belt, One Road initiative aims to further trade with African countries including Kenya. The initiative was first announced in 2013 and is a signature foreign and economic policy launched by President Xi Jinping.

The US has been increasingly vocal in urging Kenya to be wary of heavy borrowing for the Chinese-backed projects, warning that the East African country could be saddled with unpayable debts for the projects built largely with Chinese labour.