US Attacks Chinese One Belt One Road Plan and Gets into Doraleh Container Freight Terminal Row

Monday, December 17, 2018

US – AFRICA – DJIBOUTI – The speech made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton at the Washington DC based Heritage Foundation on Thursday (December 13) regarding future US policy in Africa, has been warmly welcomed by port management and logistics outfit DP World which is still locking horns with the government of Djibouti after the state seized the Doraleh container freight terminal from the Dubai headquartered group.

In the speech Mr Bolton emphasised the policy of America First as he unveiled a blueprint for the future relationship saying the policy had derived from an intensive interagency process, reflecting the core tenets of President Trump’s foreign policy doctrine. He continued:

”We have prioritised developing this document because we understand that lasting stability, prosperity, independence, and security on the African continent are in the national security interest of the United States. Under our new approach, every decision we make, every policy we pursue, and every dollar of aid we spend will further US priorities in the region. In particular, the strategy addresses three core US interests on the continent:

”First, advancing US trade and commercial ties with nations across the region to the benefit of both the United States and Africa. We want our economic partners in the region to thrive, prosper, and control their own destinies. In America’s economic dealings, we ask only for reciprocity, never for subservience.

”Second, countering the threat from Radical Islamic Terrorism and violent conflict. ISIS, al-Qaida, and their affiliates all operate and recruit on the African continent, plotting attacks against American citizens and targets. Any sound US strategy toward Africa must address this serious threat in a comprehensive way.

”And third, we will ensure that US taxpayer dollars for aid are used efficiently and effectively. The United States will no longer provide indiscriminate assistance across the entire continent, without focus or prioritization. And, we will no longer support unproductive, unsuccessful, and unaccountable UN peacekeeping missions.”

The key part of the speech however was an undisguised swipe at China and it was this which obviously excited DP World which, despite several Court hearings finding in the company’s favour, have been totally rejected by the Djibouti authorities, despite them bringing the original prosecution which was rejected by the Court. Mr Bolton said:

”Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa. They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States. From 2016-2017, China’s foreign direct investment toward Africa totalled $6.4 billion dollars. And, over the past several years, China has devoted considerable state-directed and state-supported financing to projects in the region.

”China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption, and do not meet the same environmental or ethical standards as US developmental programmes. Such predatory actions are sub-components of broader Chinese strategic initiatives, including ‘One Belt, One Road’ a plan to develop a series of trade routes leading to and from China with the ultimate goal of advancing Chinese global dominance.

”In Africa, we are already seeing the disturbing effects of China’s quest to obtain more political, economic, and military power. The nation of Zambia, for example, is currently in debt to China to the tune of $6 to $10 billion dollars. China is now poised to take over Zambia’s national power and utility company in order to collect on Zambia’s financial obligations. Similarly, from 2014 to 2016, Djibouti’s external public debt-to-GDP ratio ballooned from fifty percent to eighty-five percent, with most of that debt owed to China.

”In 2017, China established a military base in Djibouti that is only miles from our U.S. base, Camp Lemonnier, which supports critical US operations to counter violent terrorist organizations in East Africa. In May, US officials accused China of using military-grade lasers from this base to target and distract US pilots on ten different occasions. Two of our American pilots suffered eye injuries from exposure to laser beams.

”And soon, Djibouti may hand over control of the Doraleh Container Terminal, a strategically-located shipping port on the Red Sea, to Chinese state-owned enterprises. Should this occur, the balance of power in the Horn of Africa, astride major arteries of maritime trade between Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, would shift in favour of China. And, our US military personnel at Camp Lemonnier, could face even further challenges in their efforts to protect the American people.”

This last was volubly supported by DP World which welcomed the statement saying Mr Bolton had both illustrated and criticised the Government of Djibouti’s autocratic actions when it illegally expropriated the terminal. It accused those responsible of flouting international business laws and disregarding multiple international court rulings, continuing:

”We are grateful for the support of President Trump and the US Administration and will continue to use all available resources to bring about a resolution to this needless dispute.”

Photo: Mr Bolton addresses the Heritage Foundation.