China is looking to create its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean, on the coast of the small African nation Equatorial Guinea, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal based on classified U.S. intelligence.
Though officials did not describe China's plans in detail, they said China's presence on Africa's Atlantic coast would enhance the possible threat to the U.S., as it would give Chinese warships a place to rearm and refit opposite the East Coast, the Journal reported.
Gen. Stephen Townsend, who serves as commander of U.S. Africa Command, told the Senate in April that China's “most significant threat” would be “a militarily useful naval facility on the Atlantic coast of Africa.”
“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 added.
Jon Finer, President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE's principal deputy national security adviser, traveled to Equatorial Guinea in October in an effort to convince President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his son Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue to reject China's proposal, the newspaper reported.
“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 official said, per the Journal.
Obiang is the longest-serving president in the world, having ruled for more than 40 years. Human Rights Watch and other groups have complained of "relentless repression" of civil society during his reign, along with "staggering corruption that has siphoned off the country’s oil wealth."
In recent months, tensions between China and the U.S. have risen amid human rights issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about Taiwan.
Just last week, Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden clarifies any Russian movement into Ukraine 'is an invasion' Blinken calls for 'global action' against Russia amid Ukraine tensions MORE warned of "terrible consequences" if China were to invade Taiwan and take the island by force.
"But here again, I hope that China's leaders think very carefully about this and about not precipitating a crisis that would have, I think, terrible consequences for lots of people, and one that's in no one's interest, starting with China," Blinken said Friday.