China denies setting up military base in Seychelles
China's plan to establish a supply and recuperation facility in the strategically-located Indian Ocean island of Seychelles hardly amounts to setting up a military base, Chinese military analysts claimed.
Chinese Defence Ministry said on Monday that its naval fleet may seek supplies or recuperate at appropriate harbours in Seychelles as needed during escort missions, a development widely reported in India.
"The navy is considering taking on supplies in the Seychelles while conducting escort missions to tackle piracy. Military experts stressed that the move did not equate to establishing military base", state-run China Daily said referring to reports in Indian and US media in this regard.
As per the statement, Chinese naval fleets have re-supply facilities in Djibouti, Oman and Yemen since the country sent its first convoy to the Gulf of Aden in 2008 for anti-piracy operation.
Please click NEXT to read further...
Image: A Spanish fishing boat, which was freed by the Somali pirates, arrives at the Victoria port in Seychelles
'Beijing is also involved in the fight against piracy'
Speculation of a military base was rife following comments by Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam that his country has invited China to set up a military presence in his country.
"We have invited the Chinese government to set up a military presence on Mahe to fight the pirate attacks that the Seychelles face on a regular basis," Adam said.
"For the time being China is studying this possibility because she has economic interests in the region and Beijing is also involved in the fight against piracy," Adam said during the recent visit of Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie.
Image: File image of Portuguese navy troopers capturing a Somali pirate group near the Seychelles coast
'China's policy of not stationing troops abroad will not be altered'
The China Daily said besides the Indian media, sections of the US media also expressed concern "such a military base" in the Seychelles will lead to Chinese influence surpassing that of US in Africa.
"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", the daily quoted Li Jie, a professor at the Naval Military Studies Research Institute as saying.
Beijing has repeatedly confirmed that its policy of not stationing troops abroad will not be altered.
It stands alone among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in not having overseas bases, the daily said.
Due to anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia, it is only natural for Beijing to ensure naval supplies, Li said.
Image: Navy sailors of the Peoples Liberation Army during a ceremony in Beijing
'China respects Seychelles' sovereignty'
Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military strategist, told the daily that the facilities allowing ships to take on supplies cannot be called military bases because "China respects the host's sovereignty and internal politics, and no political conditions are attached".
"Besides, it will be solely used for logistics and supplies," he added.
Li Qinggong, deputy secretary of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said that any arrangements over the use of facilities will be mutually beneficial with jobs provided for people in the Seychelles and the navy better able to protect China's growing overseas interests.
He also said reports about the Chinese military had been misinterpreted recently and referred to a report of President
Hu Jintao telling a meeting of military officers last week that the navy should "make extended preparations for warfare".
However, "to strengthen and modernise the defence forces and ensure military preparation are major concerns for the Chinese military", Li said. "Hu has reiterated the importance of these two tasks at almost all major military conferences, so there is no change in policy".
Image: A general view shows tourists on the sandy beaches outside the Seychelles capital Victoria