The Department of Defense sees China expanding its military capabilities into new areas of the globe.
China has put increased importance on the development of the People’s Liberation Army Navy for the projection of Chinese power abroad, according to a May Pentagon report on China’s military. “China is expanding its access to foreign ports to pre-position the necessary logistics support to regularize and sustain deployments in the ‘far seas,'” said the report.
China is constructing a military base, although China calls it a “depot,” in Djibouti, right next door to a strategic American military base used by U.S. Africa Command, as well as Central Command, Special Operations Command, and European Command.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” AFRICOM commander Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser told Colin Clark at Breaking Defense in March. “There are some very significant operational security concerns” regarding China’s base development project.
“This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces,” the Pentagon report explained.
The Department of Defense also expects China to develop more military bases.
“Steadily advancing overseas base construction” is an aspiration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Admiral Sun Jianguo wrote in a Communist Party magazine in April, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“China most likely 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,” the Pentagon explained, adding that “China’s overseas military basing may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support a [People’s Liberation Army] presence in one of their ports.”
China has been actively constructing military outposts throughout the South China Sea, in both the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, disputed territories. There is also a very real possibility that the One Belt, One Road economic integration project will also serve to enhance regional military cooperation, thus expanding China’s military footprint.
China’s growing international influence is increasing the demands on the PLAN to protect Chinese interests in waters located further from Chinese shores.
While a greater logistics and basing situation may allow the Chinese navy to carry out non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, sea lines of communication security, and search-and-rescue operations, “a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure would also be essential to enable China to project and sustain military power at greater distances from China,” the Pentagon concluded.
Beijing is “firmly opposed” to the Department of Defense’s report, which the Chinese government called “irresponsible.”
The report makes “irresponsible remarks on China’s national defense development and reasonable actions in defending our territorial sovereignty and security interests in disregard of the facts,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday, further stating, “We hope the U.S. side will put aside the Cold War mentality, view China’s military development in an objective and rational manner, and take concrete actions to maintain steady growth of the military relationship between the two countries.”
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