The US’s Camp Lemonnier, a special-operations outpost in the sweltering East African country of Djibouti, will soon have a new neighbor.

China will open a new naval base — what it has called “logistical support” facilities — nearby, bringing the US into closer proximity with a rival power than some officers have ever experienced.

“You would have to characterize it as a military base,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, chief of US Africa Command, told reporters in Washington this week. “It’s a first for them. They’ve never had an overseas base.”

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Waldhauser told Breaking Defense. “So there’s a lot of learning going on, a lot of growing going on.”

The base, which Waldhauser said would likely be finished sometime this summer, will be several miles away from Lemonnier.

Lemonnier, and Djibouti, are strategically located in the Horn of Africa. They sit on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

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Featured image courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps.