Date: Tuesday, 07 May 2019
LAHORE: Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense in Virginia, has apprehended in its report titled “2019 China Military Power” that with its submarines regularly using Karachi and after having established its first offshore military base at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa in August 2017, China may well expand its military bases to West Asia, south-east Asia and the western Pacific.
Djibouti, by the way, is a mostly French- and Arabic-speaking country famous for its dry shrublands, volcanic formations and Gulf of Aden beaches. Inhabited by less than a million people, it is home to one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.
It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east.
Numerous American and Indian media houses have hence carried this vital Pentagon report, which has shed enough light on future military designs of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China.
Referring to the Pentagon report, an esteemed Indian media outlet, the “Times of India”, has gone on to write that China continues to rapidly modernize its war-fighting capabilities ranging from nuclear-capable missiles and submarines to cyber warfare and anti-satellite weapons, while effectively using Pakistan to bog India down in south Asia.
This top Indian newspaper said China has developed hypersonic missiles which can travel more than five times the speed of sound. According to the report, China may create more military bases across the world to protect its investments in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
The Doha-based “Al-Jazeera” Television has also carried this Pentagon report with some relevant commentary on the subject. It said: “Beijing currently has just one overseas military base, in Djibouti, but is believed to be planning others, including possibly in Pakistan, as it seeks to project itself as a global superpower.”
The television channel has further discussed and quoted the Pentagon report in these words: “China’s advancement of projects such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative (OBOR) will probably drive military overseas basing through a perceived need to provide security for OBOR projects. 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. That effort could be constrained by other countries' wariness of hosting a full-time presence of the People’s Liberation Army. But target locations for military basing could include the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific.”
The “Al-Jazeera”, the first English-language news channel to be headquartered in the Middle East, further maintained with reference to the Pentagon report: “China has already established well-armed outposts on contested atolls it built up in the South China Sea. Last year, there were reportedly discussions on a base in the Wakhan corridor of northwest Afghanistan. In addition, the “Washington Post” recently identified an outpost hosting many Chinese troops in eastern Tajikistan, near the strategic junction of the Wakhan Corridor, China, and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to project the country’s power beyond its immediate “back yard” in East and Southeast Asia. This includes strengthening the country’s presence in international institutions, acquiring top-flight technology and establishing a strong economic presence worldwide. It also includes projecting the country's military force on land, sea and in space, the report notes.”
The news channel had more to say: “Although Beijing’s official defence budget for 2018 was $175 billion, the Pentagon estimated that China’s budget actually topped $200 billion, when including research, development and foreign weapons procurement. It estimated that China’s official defence budget would likely grow to about $260 billion by 2022. Much of China’s military doctrine is focused on self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province. On January 2, President Xi 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”. The Pentagon report outlined a number of potential scenarios that China might take if Beijing decides to use military force on Taiwan, including a comprehensive campaign “designed to force Taiwan to capitulate to unification, or unification dialogue”.
It is pertinent to note that on May 26, 2015, the “Washington Post” had stated: “China said that it plans to extend its global military reach to safeguard its economic interests, while defending its territorial claims at sea against “provocative actions” by neighbors and “meddling” by the United States. A policy document setting out China’s military strategy, issued by the State Council, or cabinet, underlined the dramatic growth of the country’s defense ambitions - especially its naval ambitions - in tandem with its rapid economic rise.”
The prestigious American media house had added: “Beijing insisted in the document that its military is dedicated to “international security cooperation” and peaceful development. But it also said the navy will expand its focus from “offshore waters defense” to a greater emphasis on “open seas protection” as China aims to establish itself as a maritime power. The air force, meanwhile, will shift its focus from “territorial air defense to both defense and offense.”