The Atlantic Ocean has always been a strategic front yard for the United States. Any permanent Chinese military presence in the region is viewed as a serious threat to US security. China has been working hard to establish naval bases on Africa’s western coast, while the US has been trying to persuade African leaders to prevent such a fleet from settling in the Atlantic Ocean.
Recently, the US and Gabon have started negotiating a security cooperation agreement, with plans for U.S. training to help Gabon secure its borders. Meanwhile, in Equatorial Guinea, the US has flagged Chinese efforts to establish a base, with Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador in Washington stating that China has provided military equipment and training, as well as infrastructure.
While Chinese naval ships pass freely through international waters and Chinese companies have built around 100 commercial ports in Africa since 2000, only one African port serves as a permanent base for Chinese ships and troops: Djibouti’s seven-year-old facility. The Biden administration is expected to find a way to legally provide incentives to thwart China’s military ambitions. US officials are closely monitoring the situation to see where the Chinese will turn next.
In addition to security cooperation with Gabon, the US is also hosting Gabon in U.S.-led West and Central Africa naval exercises, aimed at helping coastal states fight piracy and illegal fishing. This is part of the ongoing efforts by the United States to counteract China’s influence in the Atlantic Ocean and prevent any further attempts by Beijing to establish military bases on African coastlines with access to this vital waterway.