"The negotiations have come to an end and the naval base will be built in Djibouti," Mahamoud Ali Youssouf told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday on the sidelines of the sixth Forum on China Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) summit held in Johannesburg on 4 and 5 December.
"The goal of the base is to fight against pirates...and most of all to secure the Chinese ships using this very important strait that is important to all the countries in the world. For Djibouti, it's an additional strategic ally,” Youssouf told AFP. "For a few years with the instability in Somalia, this region has become a refuge for pirates and the terrorist movements," Youssouf said.
In May, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh told Agence France-Presse that talks with China over the base were underway, adding that Beijing's presence would be welcome in the former French colony, which borders Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The United States and France both already have bases in the country at Camp Lemonnier and Chabelley airfield and its port has been used by foreign navies, including China's, participating in the fight against Somali pirates.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, asked about the report at a monthly news briefing in June, said the two countries had a traditional friendly relationship. "Over the past few years both countries' friendly cooperative relationship has kept on developing, and in all areas there is practical cooperation," Yang said. "Maintaining regional peace and stability accords with all countries' interests, and is the joint desire of China, Djibouti and all other countries in the world," Yang added.
Early last month People's Liberation Army Chief of Staff General Fang Fenghui visited the Chinese warship Sanya while it was replenishing supplies in Djibouti. Fang praised the performance of Chinese service personnel involved in the patrols, saying they showed how China was assuming its role as a responsible major country, Reuters reports. Fang was accompanied by deputy Chinese air force chief Zhang Jianping.
Later in the month Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China's military was in talks with Djibouti to build logistics "facilities" to support Chinese peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions. "The construction of the relevant facilities will help China's navy and army further participate in UN peacekeeping operations, carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and provide humanitarian assistance," he told a daily news briefing.
Chinese ships have undertaken anti-piracy operations off Somalia since late 2008, and in early 2010 Beijing agreed to join the multi-nation effort to protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden and nearby stretches of the Indian Ocean.