China will consider setting up new overseas support bases for its military if there are such needs, a senior People's Liberation Army strategist said on Wednesday.
Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice-president of the PLA Academy of Military Science, said at a Beijing news conference hosted by the State Council Information Office that whether China establishes new overseas military bases will depend on two factors.
"This matter is primarily determined by whether a new base is needed to help China better fulfill missions given by the United Nations," he explained. "Second, it depends on the approval of the nation where a new base should be located."
Given these two preconditions, "it is possible for China to build new overseas support bases", said the officer.
He emphasized that the main role of a Chinese overseas base is to provide logistical support to Chinese units operating overseas, and not to field Chinese military forces in other countries, so people should not overinterpret this matter.
Currently, the Chinese military has one overseas facility－the Djibouti Logistics Support Base, which was put into operation in August 2017.
The base, in Djibouti City, capital of the nation in the Horn of Africa, is tasked with supporting the Chinese military's naval escort, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in Africa and western Asia, enabling the nation to better protect the safety of international strategic maritime passages with other countries, said the PLA Navy.
It is expected to help China improve its capabilities in international military cooperation, joint exercises, emergency evacuations and overseas rescues, according to the Navy.
The United States, France and Japan also have military bases in Djibouti.
Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a high-ranking researcher at the PLA Naval Research Academy, said at Wednesday's news conference that the Djibouti base is helpful to the Chinese Navy's escort mission, which was requested by the UN.
"An overseas base can conveniently resupply ships with fresh food and fuel. It also facilitates logistical work. In the past, when we had no base, our Navy had to transport components from China to replace bad parts on a ship, and it was not easy for our sailors to rest," he said.
Regarding China's plans for its aircraft carrier force, Zhang said the country needs at least three carriers, and that it will gradually develop its carrier force in accordance with its road map.
The PLA Navy now has one carrier in active service and is testing a second one, which is expected to soon be commissioned. A new carrier, larger than the previous two, is reportedly being built.