Friday, 12 July 2013
Chinese navy courts Seychelles
The Chinese naval vessel the Harbin, a Type 052 heavy destroyer, arrived mid-June at the Republic of Seychelles with a special mission: Display friendliness and take part in the Seychelles National Day parade.
The parade ended up being dominated by a specially trained Chinese naval marching troupe that aimed to impress officials and residents of the tiny Indian Ocean island state.
An article published on the Chinese navy website said the marching team had trained for three months just to perform at the Seychelles event.
China's navy sought to establish overseas stations, among the first likely places would be the Seychelles, a 115-island country strategically located 930 miles off the east coast of Africa.
Last year, a Chinese minister, Gen. Liang Guanglie, for the first time, led a large delegation to visit the Seychelles and called for deeper military cooperation, intensifying speculation that China wants to build a naval base there.
Since 2008, China has made major moves in the Indian Ocean, dispatching 14 flotillas to the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean as part of international anti-piracy operations.
Along the way, the navy gained long-range navigational and combat training experience, and stimulated national aspirations for permanent overseas bases as supply depots and as a symbol of China’s global status.
But such facilities would exacerbate tensions in the Indian Ocean between China and other naval powers in the region, including India, the U.S., Britain and France. The U.S. currently operates a leased base in the Seychelles to fly surveillance drones that monitor pirate activities.
The Chinese destroyer and marching troupe stayed in the Seychelles for four days. The only other major country that sent an official delegation to the event was Russia.