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US visits and persuades Equatorial Guinea to reject China’s plans for local naval base

According to the Wall Street Journal reports, senior U.S. diplomatic and military officials have visited Equatorial Guinea this week to encourage the Central African country to reject China’s desire to create an army facility on its Atlantic coast.

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) informed that the U.S. delegation met with Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Vice President Teodoro “Teodorin” Obiang Mangue, and other senior officials. They discuss the importance of working together to address maritime security challenges, combat trafficking in persons, promote respect for human rights, and enhance efforts to address climate change and protect the environment.

In December last year, in response to China’s intention to build its first Atlantic base in Equatorial Guinea, Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue tweeted: “China is the model of a friendly nation and strategic partner, but, for now, there is no agreement.”

Then a Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Washington didn’t comment directly on Beijing’s aspirations on Africa’s west coast but added that “China is committed to a defensive national defense policy and is always a builder of world peace.

According to the Hong Kong media The South China Morning Post, David Shinn, a ­professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, said: “A Chinese base in Equatorial Guinea would allow Chinese submarines and surface ships to operate with greater ease in the Atlantic Ocean and be a potential threat to U.S. security and shipping interests.”

Shinn also said that the U.S. was concerned that China sought a military facility in the Atlantic Ocean. It had already set up the first one in Djibouti for the Indian Ocean region in 2017.

The South China Morning Post cited Craig Singleton, a senior China fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former U.S. diplomat, saying that a Chinese military base on the western side of Africa would have far-reaching geopolitical implications. He said, “It would provide China with the means to refit and rearm warships in the Atlantic, a capability Beijing currently lacks.”

In December last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that China encouraged Equatorial Guinea to establish a naval station in Bata, its largest city, where it had refurbished and expanded a commercial port.

Last year, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, warned that Bata would be the best place for China’s military if plans for the base went forward.

CSIS said in a commentary that “A Chinese naval base in Bata would build on the sizable Chinese presence in Equatorial Guinea, marking over five decades of engagement and represented by a large embassy and an equally significant trade mission.”

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