Japan is reportedly intent on leasing an additional plot of land adjacent to its 30-acre military base in Djibouti, as well as deploying Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles and extra troops. The nation has stationed 180 soldiers at the site since 2011.
The analyst referred to these developments as a "surprise decision," adding that it "should be seen within the context of Tokyo's growing desire to engage with the African continent and counterbalance China's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and elsewhere."
Tokyo's charm offensive in Africa includes a pledge to invest $30 billion in infrastructure development, education and healthcare projects over the next three years. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the announcement at the latest Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 6). In addition, in 2013, Japan said that it would spend $32 billion over a five-year period in Africa.
"These generous investments serve the long term goals Japan has set for Africa: with China's economy slowing down and with many export-dependent countries feeling abandoned by Beijing – including Angola and South Africa — Tokyo is ready to fill the void," Edens observed.
There is another factor to keep in mind with regard to Tokyo's plan to enlarge its military installation in Djibouti. It will take place at a time when Abe is trying to boost the role of the country's Self-Defense Forces in Africa and elsewhere, a departure from Japan's traditional pacifist defense stance.