Military leaders from nearly 50 African countries – The Gambia, Mali and South Sudan among them – completed on Tuesday a two-week conference in Beijing hosted by China’s Ministry of National Defense.
The China-Africa Defense and Security Forum began June 26, with a focus on the security situation in Africa and the goal of deepening military cooperation between China and African nations. The forum included participants from the African Union and 49 different nations.
Wei Fenghe, the Chinese defense minister, concluded the session with an emphasis on South-South cooperation among developing nations, according to CGTN.
Meanwhile, African leaders including Brima Sesay, chief of defense staff of Sierra Leone’s armed forces, have said they attach great importance to military ties with China and hope to strengthen their relationships.
The forum was the first of its kind, Chinese officials said, and comes ahead of the China-Africa FOCAC summit in Beijing in September. It reflects the expanding footprint and growing influence of China’s military in Africa, which has seen delegations visit Rwanda and South Africa in recent weeks.
A military base established in Djibouti last year may not be the last, while China’s commitments to United Nations peacekeeping forces and its growing arms trade with African nations are watched closely by the West, particularly the United States.
In March, a U.S. lawmaker created a diplomatic row when he spoke out against China’s investments on the continent and warned that they come with a price tag following concerns over the Doraleh port in Djibouti. China defended its African presence and accused the U.S. of groundless suspicion over its interests.
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