How tiny nation few have heard of may be WW3 ground zero as it hosts rival US & Chinese warships near flashpoint Red Sea

How tiny nation few have heard of may be WW3 ground zero as it hosts rival US & Chinese warships near flashpoint Red Sea

A TINY nation on the Horn of Africa where US and Chinese troops coexist may well be the place where World War Three erupts, an ex British colonel has warned.

Tensions are high and rising between the world’s two most powerful countries, after the US blasted China for ignoring the SOS calls of sailors under attack in the Red Sea.

GettyUS military base in Djibouti, East Africa[/caption]

AFPChinese People’s Liberation Army personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s military base in Djibouti in 2017[/caption]

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s only overseas military base is located just a few miles from the US military’s Camp Lemonnier – in Djibuoti, one of the smallest countries in Africa.

A mostly French- and Arabic-speaking nation of dry shrublands, volcanic formations, and pristine beaches, Djibouti is strategically located on the northeast coast of the Horn of Africa.

It is situated on the 20-mile-wide, 70-mile-long Bab al-Mandab Strait, also known as the “Gate of Grief” and the “Gate of Tears”, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

China built its support base by the Chinese-operated Port of Doraleh, to the west of Djibouti City, at a cost of USD$590million (£465million).

Its opening in late 2017 sparked concern among members of the US military as it brought them closer in proximity to a rival power than some of them had ever been before.

Now, retired military officer Colonel Richard Kemp tells The Sun, there is an increased cause for concern that the militaries may clash as tensions between the US and China have increased since 2017.

He said Russia is “constantly” threatening the US, and it was only recently that US Navy boss Carlos Del Toro slammed Beijing for failing to act as merchant ships faced missile attacks from Iran-backed Houthi rebels, so there are certainly the “ingredients” for conflicts.

Col Kemp added: “We’re seeing increasing moves to a wider conflict.

“There is sufficient tension across the Middle East.”

He said any escalation could potentially lead to a “global conflict”.

A number of US military leaders have reportedly formally complained to China about activity at its new naval base – although US Army General Stephen Townsend has said there haven’t been any problems between the countries’ military personnel.

He said in 2022: “Anytime there’s a near-peer competitor operating in proximity, you pay attention to that and you’re more cautious, but the truth is we’ve coexisted alongside the Chinese base there.

The general, who took command in July 2019, added at the time that although there was “competition”, “the facts are we’re coexisting down there.”

Camp Lemonnier, the US military’s only permanent base in Africa, was leased by Djibouti – along with the right to use the local airport and port facilities – to the US in 2002 and has since served as a hub for special forces operations in nearby nations including Somalia and Yemen.

In 2014, then-President Barack Obama and Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh agreed on a 20-year extension of the American lease – at USD$63million (£49.6million) a year in rent.

The US is in the process of expanding the base, with plans to spend $1.4billion on its upgrade over two decades.

China opened its first overseas military base just a stone’s throw away in 2017, supposedly primarily to support military logistics for Chinese troops in the Gulf of Aden.

The proximity of the bases has created geopolitical tensions, as US government officials claimed they were “blindsided” by Djibouti’s approval of a Chinese base.

Meanwhile, Djiboutian President Guelleh claimed the US had a “fixation” about the Chinese base and that it complained “incessantly” that the Chinese military was hampering their operations.

He reportedly said Chinese troops would have no problem cohabiting with Western powers if they didn’t “spy constantly” on the Chinese.

US Navy boss Carlos Del Toro last week slammed the Chinese military for standing down in the Red Sea as sailors were attacked by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

He said: “Chinese vessels have heard these calls for assistance and have done nothing.

“What that says about the morality of Chinese ships underway, I will leave for others to decipher.”

He said Iran-backed Houthi rebels were “favouring the passage of Chinese and Russian” vessels as they blast other cargo ships with cruise and ballistic missiles.

Beijing has reportedly pressured Iran to rein in its Houthi allies behind the attacks.

Speaking to journalists after a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London, he added: “Every country’s navy has a moral responsibility to respond to the SOS calls of merchant mariners when they are being attacked, in this case attacked by the Houthis.

“It is a moral responsibility that is shared by all sailors who operate on the high seas.”

Del Toro urged President Xi Jinping to “think about the impact of doing nothing”.

EPADespite UK and US strikes, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have continued to launch assaults on cargo ships in the Red Sea[/caption]

GettyUS Navy boss Carlos Del Toro last week told The Sun that China has ‘moral responsibility’ to respond to distress calls from sailors under attack[/caption]

Who are the Houthis?

THE Houthi rebels are terrorising the Red Sea by launching persistent missile and drone attacks on vessels and warships – but who are they?

The Shia militant group, which now controls most of Yemen, spent over a decade being largely ignored by the world.

However, since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war they sprung from relative obscurity to holding roughly £1trillion of world trade hostage – turning one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into an active warzone.

Their warped slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam”.

Why are they attacking ships?

The rebel group has been launching relentless drone and missile attacks on any ships – including warships – they deem to be connected with Israel in solidarity with their ally, Hamas.

However, in reality there have been frequent attacks on commercial vessels with little or no link to Israel – forcing global sea traffic to halt operations in the region and sending shipping prices soaring.

The sea assaults have threatened to ignite a full-blown war in the Middle East as intense ripples from Israel’s war in Gaza are felt across the region – with Iran suspected of stoking the chaos.

Houthi attacks in the Red Sea increased 50 per cent between November and December as the rebel group’s chiefs pledged their assaults would continue until Israel stopped its offensive in Gaza.

And despite repeated threats from the West and joint US and UK strikes blitzing their strongholds in Yemen – Iran’s terror proxy appears undeterred.

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