A female soldier is seen at the PLA's base in Djibouti. Photo: PLA Daily
A female soldier is seen at the PLA's base in Djibouti. Photo: PLA Daily

The top US military commander in charge of US troops in Africa is worried about China’s growing presence on the continent, he suggested in remarks in a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Marine General Thomas Waldhauser said in his remarks to lawmakers that China could theoretically cut off supplies to a US base in the northeast African nation of Djibouti, if they “took” the port there.

“If the Chinese took over that port, then the consequences could be significant,” Waldhauser was quoted by Reuters as saying during the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing.

“There are some indications of [China] looking for additional facilities, specifically on the eastern coast … So Djibouti happens to be the first – there will be more,” Waldhauser said.

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry rejected the notion that Beijing would aim to exclude a third party from access to the port.

“We hope that the US side can objectively and fairly view China’s development and China-Africa cooperation,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

Tillerson criticizes China’s Africa investments

Speaking at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previewed his upcoming visit to Africa, while comparing America’s and China’s approaches to relations with African countries.

“The United States pursues, develops sustainable growth that bolsters institutions, strengthens rule of law, and builds the capacity of African countries to stand on their own two feet,” Tillerson said.

He added that the US model “stands in stark contrast to China’s approach, which encourages dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth.”

The top US diplomat said he would be visiting five nations on an upcoming trip to Africa, namely Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria.

Djibouti, he said, is “a very critical trading route for the world’s economy and a critical partner in securing that trading route.”

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