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And so it begins: China has deployed personnel to set up its first overseas military base

BEIJING — China has dispatched personnel to its first military base abroad, in Djibouti, state media reported late Tuesday.

Ships carrying People's Liberation Army personnel departed Zhanjiang in southern China to set up a "support base" in the Horn of Africa nation, Xinhua news agency reported.

China's deal with Djibouti ensures its military presence in the country up until 2026, with a contingent of up to 10,000 soldiers, according to international current affairs magazine The Diplomat.

The small nation of Djibouti has in recent decades become a sought-after post for foreign armies wanting to project their power onto the continent.

The United States, France, Japan, Italy and Spain already have bases there, and Saudi Arabia is currently building one.

Djibouti has a population less than a million but has high value due to its proximity to a busy shipping route.

China says it will use its Djibouti base for missions such as peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia as well as joint military exercises and maintaining the security of international strategic waterways.

In the past decade, Beijing has secured billions of infrastructure and investment projects in Africa as it seeks to gain a foothold in the continent, which is relies on heavily for the mineral and energy resources that fuel its own development.

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