American report on Chinese military activities draws angry response from Beijing

Laura Christensen
June 8, 2017

Washington D.C. [United States], June 7: After building its first overseas military base in the African nation of Djibouti, China is now planning to establish its military base in Pakistan and other countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, Pentagon has said in its annual report to the Congress.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Wednesday that the annual report made "irresponsible remarks" and disregarded facts.

Asserting that China was the world's fourth largest arms supplier with more than Dollars 20 billion in sales, the Pentagon said that the Asian-Pacific countries, primarily Pakistan accounted for USD 9 billion in Chinese arms exports from 2011 to 2015.

While Hua declined to comment on possible future overseas bases, she said China and Pakistan - one of the countries considered most likely to host a Chinese military presence - were close friends who conduct mutually beneficial cooperation in a variety of fields.

It also said that Beijing's first foreign military base, a naval port in the East African nation of Djibouti which sits in close proximity to a U.S. base, is likely to be completed "within the next year".

China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti.

"The airfields, berthing areas, and resupply facilities on its Spratly outposts will allow China to maintain a more flexible and persistent coast guard and military presence in the area", the Pentagon report said.

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"As of late 2016, China was constructing 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities at each of the three outposts", the Pentagon report said. But China still lags behind the United States and Japan in terms of technology and capability. Under former President Barack Obama, the Defense Department also slammed Beijing's militarization of the South China Sea and other developments.

The Pentagon has been predicting since at least 2014 that China would carry out patrols of the submarines with the missiles onboard. "China is not doing any military expansion and does not seek a sphere of influence", it said in a statement.

But Pakistan, the USA report noted, was already the primary market in the Asian-Pacific region for Chinese arms exports. And it has increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them.

And countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty.

The development is of concern to India given our long-standing hostility with Pakistan and the ever-fragile peace along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan was singled out as a likely location and it is already the largest buyer of Chinese-made arms.

"This likely will result in the Middle East and North Africa surpassing Sub-Saharan Africa as China's second largest arms export market", it said. That estimate is significantly higher than China's official defense budget of about $140bn. China spent Dollars 180 billion on the People's Liberation Army previous year, the report said. But due to "poor accounting transparency" officials admitted that figure could not account for all spending.

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