Washington: A Pentagon report said that China is expanding its access to strategic foreign ports like Pakistan’s Gwadar and Sri Lanka’s Hambantota to pre-position the logistic framework necessary to support the growing presence of its military in the Indian Ocean and beyond. The People’s Liberation Army’s efforts to obtain access to commercial ports in Africa, West Asia and South Asia would align with its future overseas logistic needs and meet its evolving naval requirements, said the Congressionally-mandated report on the increasing Chinese military power which was released by the US department of defence.
China in 2015 announced its intention to build military facilities in Djibouti, citing reasons “to help the Navy and Army further participate in UN peacekeeping operations, carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden and provide humanitarian assistance.” “China is expanding its access to foreign ports, such as in Gwadar, Pakistan, to pre-position the logistic framework necessary to support the PLA’s growing presence abroad, including normalising and sustaining deployments into and beyond the Indian Ocean,” the Pentagon said.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is likely to use commercial ports and civilian ships to support its international and domestic logistic operations, resupply, replenishment and maintenance, it said. China’s territorial claims in the resource-rich South China Sea are driving major logistic developments in the Spratly and Paracel Islands. The reclaimed territory in the South China Sea by China is equipped with harbours and berthing areas that are capable of accommodating large naval ships, increasing the PLAN’s ability to exercise control of critical SLOCs, it said. According to the report, China’s military strategy reflects its drive to establish a coherent, unified approach to managing national security in a world where Beijing perceives that China’s expanding interests have made it more vulnerable at home and abroad.
While it calls for a peer-topeer cooperative relationship with the US, Beijing also believes that the presence of the US military and the US-led security architecture in Asia seeks to constrain China’s rise and interfere with its sovereignty, particularly in a Taiwan conflict scenario and in the East and South China Seas. “Since the 1990s, Beijing has repeatedly communicated its preference to move away from the US-led regional security system and has pursued its own regional security initiatives in support of what it views as a natural transition to regional predominance,” the Pentagon said.
Authoritative Chinese documents, the report said, highlight the Korean Peninsula as an area of instability and uncertainty, and express concern regarding unsettled territorial disputes along China’s border with India, which periodically result in tense standoffs like the one that occurred in the summer of 2017 in the disputed Doklam region. Military bases in foreign countries and other improvements to the PLA’s ability to project power during the next decade, will increase China’s ability to deter by military force and sustain operations abroad, the Pentagon report said.