China Looks at Walvis Bay Naval Base, Namibian Reports

China has proposed building a base for its Navy in the Namibian port of Walvis Bay and a delegation will visit the African country to discuss the project, the Namibian newspaper reported, citing a letter from Namibia’s ambassador to China to the country’s foreign ministry.

The Dec. 22 letter from Ambassador Ringo Abed to Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, the permanent secretary in Namibia’s foreign affairs ministry, said Abed had met Geng Yansheng, China’s defense ministry spokesman, the newspaper said. Yansheng in November denied media reports that China was planning a number of naval bases in Asia and Africa and on Tuesday the defense ministry said in a faxed reply to queries that the report was groundless.

“Namibia has had problems with illegal fishing trawlers in its waters,” Abed cited Yansheng as saying in the meeting. “A Chinese naval presence will deter any would-be illegal trawlers and smugglers,” Abed said, relaying comments he said Yansheng had made.

China’s annual trade with Africa soared 11-fold in the decade to 2013, exceeding $200 billion, and the country’s companies have invested on the continent. Among other assets they own a uranium mine in Namibia and are building roads in Kenya and supplying freight trains to South Africa.

Monica Sheya, a spokeswoman for Namibia’s defense ministry, said she had no knowledge of the plan. The country’s foreign ministry said it wasn’t immediately able to comment.

The delegation will include technical staff to do a feasibility study and the rental would be discussed with the Namibia’s government, Abed said, citing Yansheng.

Walvis Bay, or Whale Bay in English, is Namibia’s sole deepwater port and lies on the country’s coast with the Atlantic Ocean.

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