3, May 2019
The United States has expressed disquiet over Chinese increasing military activities, including the deployment of submarines to the Arctic Ocean as well as the construction of military bases around the world.
The US Defense Department released a report on Thursday, saying Beijing was planning to add military bases around the world to protect its investments in its trillion-dollar project, known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The initiative would reinvent the ancient Silk Road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa through massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects for international trade in an effort to counter US unilateralism and protectionist policies.
The US report said China, which currently has just one overseas military base in Djibouti, is believed to be planning others, including possibly in Pakistan, as it seeks to project itself as a global superpower.
“China will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” it said.
The report also said the target locations for such bases could include the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the western Pacific.
The report was issued as Beijing and Washington are locked in dispute over US military presence in resource-rich South China Sea.
The US has been taking sides with several of China’s neighbors in their territorial disputes in the busy sea, stepping up military presence under the pretext of freedom of navigation operations in international waters.
China has constantly warned Washington that close military encounters by air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could easily trigger miscalculation or even accidents at sea or in air.
‘China’s activities reaching the Arctic’
The Pentagon report noted that China has been accelerating military activities in the Arctic as well.
“Civilian research could support a strengthened Chinese military presence in the Arctic Ocean, which could include deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks,” the report said.
“The speed of growth of the submarine force has slowed and (it) will likely grow to between 65 and 70 submarines by 2020,” the report predicted.
The eight-nation Arctic Council will convene a meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland on Monday with the presence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the Chinese military presence in the region.
The expansion of submarine forces is just one element of China’s broad and costly modernization of its military, according to US experts, who believe the move is largely aimed at deterring any action by US armed forces.
The Pentagon assessment also mentioned Beijing’s military actives in Taiwan, the self-ruled island, over which Beijing asserts sovereignty.
China and Taiwan split amid a civil war in 1949, but Beijing’s leadership pursues their reunification.
In 1979, the US adopted the “One China” policy, but under the administration of US President Donald Trump, it has courted Taipei in an attempt to counter China.
Earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech that China reserved the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, but would strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”
Beijing has accused Washington of making “a series of moves” on Taiwan and “other issues” that harm China’s sovereignty.
The self-ruled island is only one of a growing number of sticking points in the US-China relationship, which also include a trade war initiated by the US as well as an aggressive campaign it launched against Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Last year Trump signed a bill, which bans federal agencies and their contractors from purchasing Huawei’s equipment and services over the accusation that the Chinese government uses the company’s 5G (fifth generation) networks to spy on other countries.
Huawei has filed a lawsuit against the law calling the bans unconstitutional.