A Chinese naval fleet has wrapped up visits to four Arab states in the strategic Persian Gulf region.
The Chinese task force, consisting of the guided-missile destroyer Harbin, the guided-missile frigate Handan, and the supply ship Dongpinghu, departed Kuwait on Sunday after stopping in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, media reported on Monday.
The Chinese task force completed an assignment escorting commercial ships and patrolling for pirates in the Gulf of Aden. It was the 24th Chinese task force to be assigned such missions since 2008.
China’s navy has used the patrols to build its capacity to operate far from home ports. It has also been building a logistics center in Djibouti, which some observers consider to be China’s first overseas military base.
Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa region, already hosts American, French, and Japanese bases for logistical support and to facilitate African military operations.
China’s Djibouti facility will give the Asian powerhouse ready access to the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2011, China sent one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help with the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens fleeing the unstable situation and fighting in Libya.
In 2015, China sent three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from Yemen, where a Saudi Arabian war has just been launched.
Also in 2015, Chinese warships took part in their first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.
Reports say China has approved plans to build 500 warships, including aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and amphibious ships, making it the world’s biggest fleet.