The Atlantic Ocean is perceived by the US as a strategic front yard, making it a serious concern to have a permanent Chinese military presence there. China has been working to establish naval bases on Africa’s western coast while the US has been trying to convince African leaders not to allow such a fleet in the Atlantic Ocean.
A senior American official stated that so far, no African country with an Atlantic coastline has signed an agreement with China to allow a permanent Chinese military presence. However, there are concerns that China is already providing military equipment and training, as well as infrastructure in countries like Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The US and Gabon are currently negotiating a security cooperation agreement, with plans for U.S. training to help Gabon secure its borders. Meanwhile, in Equatorial Guinea, the US has flagged Chinese efforts to establish a base, with Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador in Washington stating that China has provided military equipment and training, as well as infrastructure.
Chinese naval ships pass freely in international waters and Chinese companies have built around 100 commercial ports in Africa since 2000. However, only one African port serves as a permanent base for Chinese ships and troops: Djibouti’s seven-year-old facility. The Biden administration is expected to find a way to legally provide incentives to thwart China’s military ambitions. US officials are closely monitoring the situation to see where the Chinese will turn next.
As part of its ongoing efforts to counter the influence of the Chinese army in the Atlantic Ocean and prevent Chinese military bases in African countries with coastal access, the US is also hosting Gabon in U.S.-led West and Central Africa naval exercises intended to help coastal states fight piracy and illegal fishing.