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China planning naval base in Namibia: report

Namibia and China are discussing plans for a Chinese naval base in the southwest African country, the Namibian newspaper reported Tuesday, prompting an immediate denial from Beijing.

The Namibian quoted a confidential letter from Namibia`s Beijing ambassador to his foreign ministry stating that a Chinese delegation would visit Windhoek for discussions "on the way forward regarding plans for the proposed naval base in Walvis Bay".

The letter from Ambassador Ringo Abed to foreign affairs permanent secretary Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, dated December 22, 2014, followed a meeting he had with Chinese defence ministry official Geng Yansheng, the Namibian said.

The detailed letter said the Chinese delegation would include technical staff and naval architects who would do an exploratory feasibility study, the newspaper reported.

In response to a query, the Chinese defence ministry told AFP that "the exchange of communication between Chinese defence officials and Namibian embassy officials reported by `The Namibian` is an out-and-out fabrication".

Namibia`s Foreign Affairs Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who was sent a copy of the letter, said: "The whole issue is completely new to me. I`m seeing this letter for the first time."

The ambassador`s letter said Geng Yansheng had noted that China had invested heavily in Namibia and that a Chinese naval presence would deter illegal fishing trawlers and smugglers in Namibian waters, the paper reported.

"Other considerations for the naval base would be for it to serve to train the Namibian navy, not only to be combat ready but to carry out civilian duties as well," the Nambian quoted the letter as saying.

This is the second time Beijing has denied reports of a planned naval base in Walvis Bay, which has a sheltered deepwater harbour and is Namibia`s biggest commercial port.

The desert nation on the Atlantic coast to the north of South Africa is mineral-rich -- from diamonds to uranium -- and China has increased investment and aid in recent years.