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China says mulling offer from Seychelles to act as naval resupply and recreation base
BEIJING (AP) ' An offer from the Seychelles to host visits by Chinese naval ships is drawing heavy publicity in Beijing and highlighting the increasing reach of a navy that recently launched its first aircraft carrier.
A Defense Ministry statement Tuesday said Beijing is considering an offer from the Indian island nation's government to allow Chinese navy ships to visit for rest and resupply.
Those vessels would be part of a multinational force conducting anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia that China has participated in since late 2008. Chinese ships assigned to patrols in the Gulf of Aden have visited several ports to allow their crews to rest and to take on supplies, including in Yemen and Oman on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
Major newspapers including the official China Daily gave prominent coverage to the offer. They said the invitation was issued during a visit to the Seychelles by Defense Minister Liang Guanglie earlier this month.
The Chinese navy has grown in recent years from a coastal protection force to one spanning the globe, sending ships as far as the Caribbean on goodwill missions and into the Mediterranean to escort vessels evacuating Chinese citizens from the fighting in Libya.
However, the reports were eager to state China's firm policy of not establishing permanent military bases overseas, a cornerstone of Beijing's claim not to be seeking regional hegemony or military alliances with other nations.
That policy has come into question in recent years as China travels further abroad in search of economic opportunities and resources for its growing economy. Chinese academics and military thinkers have floated hitherto unheard-of proposals for bases in the Indian Ocean to protect energy supply lines, only to be met with crisp disavowals from the government.
The issue of Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean is of particular interest to India, which has long-standing border disputes with China and is deeply suspicious of China's close ties with archrival Pakistan.