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Top Armed Services Dem warns of China's influence after trip to Africa

Top Armed Services Dem warns of China's influence after trip to Africa

The ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday warned of China’s growing influence in Africa after a trip to the region.

“Wherever we’re going in Africa, they seem to be there, or following close behind,” Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Overnight Defense: Famed Navy SEAL calls Trump out | Yemen's Houthi rebels free two Americans | Marines fire commander after deadly training accident MORE (D-R.I.) said of China.

Reed last week took a trip with stops in Djibouti, Somalia and Jordan and spoke with reporters about it Thursday.

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China’s first and only foreign military base is in Djibouti, where the United States also has its only permanent base in Africa. The Chinese base was officially opened in August and was built over the last two years.

Additionally, China has lent a “huge amount of money” to Djibouti and is “moving into” northern Kenya with a “major investment,” Reed said.

U.S. officials have previously warned about China’s growing influence in the region, with U.S. Africa Command chief Gen. Thomas Waldhauser saying last year that the Djibouti base presents “some very significant operational security concerns.”

Still, Waldhauser has also said the base could present opportunities to work with China based on “shared interests in African stability.”

On Thursday, Reed said he did not hear from people on the ground that they were worried about operating in close proximity with the Chinese.

But China’s presence has caused U.S. forces to consider things they didn’t have to in the past, such as where China has forces and economic interests, he added.

“They keep an eye on us, and we keep an eye on them, but I didn’t get the impression that … we curtail because they are there,” he said.

He also said there could be areas of "limited" cooperation, "which we shouldn’t ignore or disdain."

Reed said he sees China’s goals in Africa as trying to gain global influence and surpass the United States as a world power.

“They want to be reckoned with around the world,” he said.

Asked if there’s something the United States should be doing in Africa to counter China, Reed said, “We should go where our national interests lie.” 

“We have to first recognize they’re a factor now, where as years ago they were not a factor,” he said. “We have to keep a watchful eye on what they’re doing. We certainly want to be welcomed in countries and not ignored or dismissed because of influence by other powers, including China. We want to maintain opportunities both economic and political in Africa.”