China may zero in on Pakistan for military base: Pentagon

Reuters

China is set to expand its military capabilities across the globe, with new overseas bases in countries like Pakistan, as the world's largest army seeks an increased role in defending China's interests abroad, a report by the US Pentagon has said.

"We can not accept Chinese actions that impinge on the interests of the global community", U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said at the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore last week.

On Wednesday, China's foreign affairs ministry rejected a Pentagon report in which it was said that the communist nation would build a military base in Pakistan.

While Hua declined to comment on Chinese overseas facilities, she said China and Pakistan were close partners who enjoy successful cooperation in various fields.

Last year China began building its first overseas base in the African nation of Djibouti, which is already home to a key U.S. military base and is strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal.

But China and Pakistan enjoyed friendly cooperative ties that did not target any third parties, she added.

China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing a naval logistics center in Djibouti, where construction began in February 2016.

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"China's expanding worldwide economic interests are increasing demands for the [Chinese Navy] to operate in more distant maritime environments to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and critical sea lines of communication", the report reads.

The report estimated China's spending of $180bn on the People's Liberation Army past year, but officials admitted that figure could not account for all spending due to "poor accounting transparency".

"China uses its cyber capabilities to support intelligence collection against US diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors".

China could soon have new, advanced warplanes to base on those man-made islands, and two new stealth fights could be read as soon as next year, the report states. "China is not doing any military expansion and does not seek a sphere of influence", it said in a statement. The Pentagon has been predicting since at least 2014 that China would carry out patrols of the submarines with the missiles aboard.

But India and others would be unhappy with additional Chinese development in Pakistan, particularly anything linked to the military. And it has increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them. The Pentagon report said that this region accounted for $9 billion of the more than $20 billion in Chinese arms exports from 2011 to 2015.

Countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty. This figure is higher than China's official defense budget figure of $140.4 billion. "Once all these facilities are complete, China will have the capacity to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands". "It is a legitimate right of a sovereign state", Hua said, without mentioning the islands directly.

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