Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) salute from a ship sailing off from a military port in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, July 11.
(photo credit: HANDOUT)
A controversial new step for China's military that it calls a landmark move.
A fleet of Chinese ships setting sail on Wednesday - -on a mission to to set up Beijing's first overseas military base.
Their destination? The port of Djibouti, here in the Horn of Africa.
It's a move that's raising alarms in neighbouring countries.
The port's position on the Northwestern wedge of the Indian Ocean particularly concerning to India.
It says its worried the port could become another one of China's so-called "String of Pearls" of military alliances, part of a theory that China is building up strategic sea lanes along the Middle East to project its power overseas.
Beijing officially describing the base as a logistics facility.
According to Chinese State media, the base will be used for peace keeping missions and humanitarian aid in the area, but also may be used for military tasks abroad and securing strategic seaways.
No word yet on when it might formally begin operations.
But it won't be the only foreign boots on the ground.
Djibouti, which is sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, also hosts US, Japanese and French military compounds.