China has plans to set up its first military base in the Atlantic Ocean, potentially allowing the communist regime to establish warships opposite the East Coast of the U.S.
The potential Chinese base in Equatorial Guinea caused concern at both the White House and Pentagon, U.S. officials said. Principal deputy U.S. national security adviser Jon Finer visited the small African nation to urge its president, as well as his son and heir apparent, to reject China’s proposal.
“As part of our diplomacy to address maritime-security issues, we have made clear to Equatorial Guinea that certain potential steps involving [Chinese] activity there would raise national-security concerns,” a senior Biden administration said.
The “most significant threat” China could make is “a militarily useful naval facility on the Atlantic coast of Africa,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command, testified before the Senate in April.
“By militarily useful I mean something more than a place that they can make port calls and get gas and groceries. I’m talking about a port where they can rearm with munitions and repair naval vessels,” Townsend said.
China is likely considering the city of Bata, which has a Chinese-built deep-water commercial port on its gulf and a highway that links the city to Gabon and the interior of Central Africa, according to one official.
China’s military plans for Equitorial Guinea showed up on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar in 2019. A senior Pentagon official visited the country at the end of the Trump administration, however, the visit apparently left the nation’s president questioning how seriously the U.S. had taken the threat.
The Biden administration has sought to build a better relationship with Equatorial Guinea in the hopes of deterring China’s naval presence. In August, aid was offered after an apparently accidental ammunition explosion destroyed an army base and killed at least 100 people. Around that same time, an American Navy ship that was anchored off the Bata port hosted local officials and naval personnel to observe firefighter training.