"So they are very serious incidents - this activity poses a true threat to our airmen, " said Dana White, chief Pentagon spokesperson. Mr. Meeks, a former pilot and Air Force colonel, had a previous assignment at U.S. Pacific Command.
"Those were two minor injuries", White said. Opened in 2001, the installation has become a vital staging point for U.S.
According to reports, at least two U.S. pilots on a cargo plane suffered minor eye injuries due to their targeting by locals using high-grade laser beams. It's not clear how the Pentagon decided the lasers were Chinese, beyond them having a base sort of nearby. "We have formally démarched the Chinese government and we've requested the Chinese investigate these incidents".
The U.S. has about 4,000 personnel in Djibouti, due to its strategic location near terrorist hotspots Somalia and Yemen.
China rejected the allegations, saying they are "inconsistent with facts", with its foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying telling reporters "You can remind relevant people in the U.S. to pay attention to facts and not to make groundless accusations".
This sort of expansion is similar to Chinese activity in the South China Sea, where China has built a number of military installations on distant atolls that pose a challenge to USA forces in the area.
The base China has recently built in Djibouti - the country's first station overseas - is suspected to be the source of the laser attacks, and it's located just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, which is used for American counterterrorism operations in the region.
Military officials say they're confident that the Chinese are responsible for the lasers, as they are coming from the direction of the Chinese base nearby, and are too powerful to be commercial, off-the-shelf gear. Initially an 88-acre base, an agreement was signed with the Djibouti government in 2006 to expand the facility to 500 acres.
The encounters also underscore growing concerns about Beijing's steady rise as a military power in Asia and elsewhere, including over its construction of fortified artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert, said the close proximity of the two bases meant that both sides would be locked in a "quiet contest" to gather information about each other, the South China Morning Post reported.