The US perceives the Atlantic Ocean as a strategic front yard, making a permanent Chinese military presence there a serious threat to US security. China has been conducting a campaign to establish naval bases on Africa’s western coast, while the US has been working to persuade African leaders to prevent such a fleet from settling in the Atlantic Ocean.
Chinese naval ships pass freely in international waters and Chinese companies have built around 100 commercial ports in Africa since 2000. However, only one African port serves as a permanent base for Chinese ships and troops: Djibouti’s seven-year-old facility.
The Biden administration is expected to find a way to legally provide incentives to thwart China’s military ambitions. US officials are closely monitoring the situation to see where the Chinese will turn next. In addition to security cooperation with Gabon, the US is also hosting Gabon in U.S.-led West and Central Africa naval exercises, intended to help coastal states fight piracy and illegal fishing. This is part of the US’s ongoing efforts to counter the influence of the Chinese army in the Atlantic Ocean and prevent Chinese military bases in African countries with coastal access.