Major Communication Breakdown During Chinese Live-Fire Exercises in Djibouti – 11/28/17

On 23 November, the Chinese military conducted live-fire exercises with ZTL-11 amphibious assault vehicles at the Maryam Training Area in the Republic of Djibouti. These exercises were closely followed by Western militaries based in Djibouti. This is not because these militaries currently see the Chinese military as an immediate threat in the region. Rather, it is because they view the Chinese military as another force with which they have “to share a common operating space.” Western militaries therefore perceive that it is in their strategic interest to keep a close eye on any Chinese military activities on the continent.

In this context, it is perhaps not surprising that reports of what actually transpired during the live-fire exercises are beginning to trickle out. Yesterday, foreign military officials revealed that they were not only surprised that the Chinese military conducted the exercises outside of the normal hours at the range. They also felt that the Chinese military did not have the proper authorization to conduct the exercises in the first place. This led to intense speculation over what statement the Chinese military was trying to make with these exercises.

Earlier today, new information came to light that casts a shadow over these concerns. According to a foreign military official, the Chinese military was provided authorization to conduct these exercises by the Djiboutian Government. Afterwards, the Djiboutian Government attempted to notify the French military prior to the exercises. However, there was a “technical issue that delayed the reception of the fax.” So, the French Forces in Djibouti were not aware that the Chinese military had the authorization to conduct the exercises until the last 24 hours. This was problematic. The French Forces in Djibouti are ultimately responsible for overseeing the Maryam Training Area. So, other Western militaries were in the dark about whether the Chinese military had the authorization to conduct the exercises until this morning.

If the latest reports are true, then this coordination problem not only provides a powerful indictment of the current status of the range coordination process. It also exposes the day-to-day challenge of trying to coordinate the military activities of the many foreign military forces operating in Djibouti. It is therefore in the best interest of the Djiboutian Government and the overseas military bases in Djibouti to start working toward developing a new mechanism for addressing these problems. Of course, this will be difficult in light of the many competing interests of the foreign military forces in Djibouti. The Djiboutian Government and the overseas military bases in Djibouti will therefore need to be extremely creative when trying to work out a legally valid solution to these problems.

Michael Edward Walsh is the Director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative at the Islands Society. Separately, he is a Research Fellow for African Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS. This article is derived from his ongoing doctoral research on counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

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Islands Society Told of Communications Breakdown During Recent Chinese Live-Fire Exercises in Djibouti – 11/28/17

The Islands Society can confirm that a foreign military officer has shared new information that the Chinese military was provided official authorization to conduct live-fire exercises at the Maryam Training Area, Djibouti. However, the French military did not receive the notification of authorization because of a technical issue that delayed the reception of a fax sent by the Djiboutian Government until earlier this morning.

Reported Unauthorized Use of Djiboutian Range Fuels Speculation on Chinese Intentions in Africa – 11/27/17

Last week, the Chinese military conducted live-fire exercises at a range in the Republic of Djibouti. News of these exercises made headlines across China and around the world. Images of the soldiers and tanks participating in the exercises were also widely shared on social media.

According to media reporting, Chinese military officials maintain that the purpose of these exercises was to put their strategies to the test. They also point out that these exercises are consistent with their stated commitment to ensure that their soldiers stationed in Djibouti conduct regular military exercises on par with their colleagues stationed back home. Meanwhile, Chinese military experts suggest that these exercises were not just a way to showcase the Chinese military on the world stage. They may also be a prologue to more complex drills to be carried out later this year.

Any live-fire exercises by the Chinese military will be closely followed by Western militaries in Djibouti. This is not because Western militaries see the Chinese military as an immediate threat in Eastern Africa. Rather, it is because Western militaries view the Chinese military as “an opposing force” with which they have “to share a common operating space.” It is perhaps not surprising then that reports of what actually transpired during the live-fire exercises are beginning to trickle out. For example, a foreign military official recently revealed that the Chinese military was observed using the range outside of their scheduled permit for use. According to the foreign military official, this may have been an intentional affront to the French military who manages the ranges. If so, then the Chinese military may have been trying to make the statement that they have effectively replaced the French military as the dominant military force in the country.

In an opinion article for the Global Times, Su Tan suggests that last week’s live-fire exercises aroused concern because of “persistent speculation over China’s intentions.” Unfortunately, the Chinese Government has done very little to assuage concerns over the intentions of the Chinese military in this part of the world. Moreover, the People’s Liberation Army Security Base in Djibouti remains shrouded in secrecy since it opened in August. And, the Chinese military has been aggressive in their interactions with their American counterparts since their first live-fire exercise in September. In this context, last week’s live-fire exercises were bound to fuel further speculation over China’s intentions in the region. The reported use of the range outside of their scheduled permit of use only adds more fuel to that fire.

Michael Edward Walsh is the Director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative at the Islands Society. Separately, he is a Research Fellow for African Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS. This article is derived from his ongoing doctoral research on counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

Note: This article was re-distributed by the DefenceWeb – Africa’s Leading Defence News Portal.

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Islands Society Launches Somaliland Essay Competition – 11/25/17

The Islands Society is issuing an open call to young professionals to participate in its annual essay competition. This year, the nonprofit is calling upon young professionals to respond to the following question: “How can the people of Somaliland achieve maritime security by 2030?”

Young professionals interested in participating in the essay competition are invited to submit an article of 800-1,000 words on “How can the people of Somaliland achieve maritime security by 2030?” They are also asked to provide a short bio and two references.

All materials must be emailed to pr@islandssociety.org by 5:00pm East Africa Time Zone on January 30, 2018. Only completed applications received by that date and time will be considered.

Selected essays will be professionally edited and published on Next Generation Perspectives. A press release will also be issued and the articles will be shared with over 3,000 contacts across the region.

Note: While preference will be given to young scholars and young professionals who are current or former residents of Somaliland, the essay competition is open to young scholars and young professionals around the world who have an interest in the region.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to respect, inspire, and empower coastal communities around the world.

Website: www.islandssociety.org
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Islands Society Launches Map of Overseas Military Bases in Djibouti City, Djibouti – 11/25/17

Today, the Islands Society launched a map of the major overseas military bases in the vicinity of Djibouti City, Djibouti. The map provides the general public with a way to observe the various overseas military bases through annotated geospatial imagery. Moving forward, the map will be updated as new geo-spatial imagery becomes available.

To view the new map, click here.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

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Image Credit: Michael Edward Walsh / Google Earth via Creative Commons

Islands Society Launches Base Tracker for Turkish Military Base in Mogadishu, Somalia – 11/25/17

Today, the Islands Society launched a base tracker for overseas military base of the Republic of Turkey in Mogadishu, Somalia. The tracker provides the general public with a way to observe changes in and around the Chinese base over time through targeted geo-spatial imagery. Moving forward, the geo-spatial imagery will be updated as new imagery becomes available.

To view the new Base Tracker, click here.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

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Facebook
Twitter

Image Credit: Michael Edward Walsh / Google Earth via Creative Commons

Islands Society Launches Base Tracker for Chinese Military Base in Doraleh, Djibouti – 11/25/17

Today, the Islands Society has launched a base tracker for overseas military base of the People’s Republic of China in Doraleh, Djibouti. The tracker provides the general public with a way to observe changes in and around the Chinese base over time through targeted geo-spatial imagery. Moving forward, the geo-spatial imagery will be updated as new imagery becomes available.

To view the new Base Tracker, click here.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Image Credit: Michael Edward Walsh / Google Earth via Creative Commons

Islands Society Launches Base Tracker for UAE Military Base in Assab, Eritrea – 11/25/17

Today, the Islands Society has launched a base tracker for overseas military base of the United Arab Emirates in Assab, Eritrea. The tracker provides the general public with a way to observe changes in and around the Emirati base over time through targeted geo-spatial imagery. Moving forward, the geo-spatial imagery will be updated as new imagery becomes available.

To view the new Base Tracker, click here.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

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Facebook
Twitter

Image Credit: Michael Edward Walsh / Google Earth via Creative Commons

Islands Society Confirms Expansion of Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti – 11/24/17

The Islands Society can now confirm that the Japanese Government has renewed the land lease contract for the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti. This includes not only the original plot of land but also an additional plot of land to the north-east of the current base. The additional land measures approximately 3 hectares. And, the effective date of the renewal is 20 November 2017.

Press Release Confirming the Expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti

Note: DefenceWeb recently published an in-depth article on the expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base by the Director of the Overseas Military Bases Initiative at the Islands Society. Please find it here.

The Official Blog of Ambassador David Shinn Features Articles by Michael Edward Walsh – 11/24/17

On 24 November 2017, The Official Blog of Ambassador David Shinn featured a number of articles by Michael Edward Walsh that were originally published on the Africa Security Monitor as part of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative.

Website: The Official Blog of Ambassador David Shinn

About Michael Edward Walsh
Michael Edward Walsh is a research fellow for African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Separately, he is also president of the Islands Society and director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative. Over the last decade, Mr. Walsh’s work has appeared in dozens of international news outlets and think tank publications. He has also received a number of awards, including the Vivian Award from the National Press Club and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

About the Islands Society
The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Image Credit: Department of State via Flickr CC