China is likely to establish additional military bases in Pakistan and other countries with which it has a longstanding friendly tie ups.
In its annual report to the Congress on China’s military build-up, the US Department of Defence said China’s construction of military base in the strategic location of Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world.
China is expanding its access to foreign ports to pre- position the necessary logistics support to regularise and sustain deployments in the “far seas”, waters as distant as the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
“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 said.
The report cautioned, however, that China’s efforts to build more bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support” the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army in one of their ports.
In February 2016, China began construction of a military base in Djibouti and probably will complete it within the next year
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.
China’s expanding international economic interests are increasing demands for the PLA Navy to operate in more distant maritime environments to protect Chinese citizens, investments and critical sea lines of communication
China also continued to send submarines to the Indian Ocean
“These submarine patrols demonstrate the PLAN’s emerging capability both to protect China’s SLOCs and to increase China’s power projection into the Indian Ocean,” the report said.
According to the Pentagon, Pakistan is also China’s largest buyer of arms. From 2011 to 2015, China was the world’s fourth largest arms supplier with more than USD 20 billion in sales.
“China’s ability to remain among the world’s top five global arms suppliers hinges largely on continued strong sales to Pakistan and demand for its armed UAVs. China is one of only a few global suppliers of such equipment and faces little competition for sales to the Middle East and North Africa.
Last year, China signed an agreement with Pakistan for the sale of eight submarines, it said, adding that the first four will be built in China, with the remaining four in Pakistan.
China sold armed UAVs to several states in the Middle East and North Africa, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon said.
China faces little competition for sale of such systems, as most countries that produce them are restricted in selling the technology as signatories of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and/or the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies (WA), as well as subjecting exports of this technology to greater scrutiny than China, it said.