China ‘Likely Considered’ Setting Up a Military Base in SL
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
A US Department of Defence report says China has likely considered setting up a military base in Sri Lanka. The report released on 3 November 2021, titled ‘Military and Security Developments, involving the People’s Republic of China’, notes that PRC is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at greater distances.
Beyond its current base in Djibouti, the PRC is very likely already considering and planning for additional overseas military logistics facilities to support naval, air, and ground forces. The PRC has likely considered locations for PLA military logistics facilities in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan. The PRC and Cambodia have publicly denied having signed an agreement to provide the People’s Liberation Army, Navy with access to Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base.
It further notes that the PRC has increasingly recognised that its armed forces should take a more active role in advancing its foreign policy goals.
As the PRC’s overseas interests have grown over the past two decades, the Party’s leaders have increasingly pushed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to think about how it will operate beyond China’s borders and its immediate periphery to advance and defend these interests.
In 2019, the PLA continued to expand its participation in bilateral and multilateral military exercises, normalise its presence overseas, and build closer ties to foreign militaries.
It further notes that a global PLA military logistics network could interfere with US military operations and provide flexibility to support offensive operations against the United States.
On China’s foreign policy the report cites that in 2019, the PRC recognised that its armed forces should take a more active role in advancing its foreign policy, highlighting the increasingly global character that Beijing ascribes to its military power.
The PRC has stated its defence policy aims to safeguard its sovereignty, security, and development interests. China’s military strategy remains based on the concept of “active defence.”
PLAN – the largest navy in the world – is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favour of larger, modern multi-role combatants. As of 2019, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.
Meanwhile, in response to the claims made by the US report, the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka fired a salvo saying “a thief believes everybody steals.”
“Despite the withdrawal of US military bases and troops from Afghanistan, the US continues to maintain about 750 military bases abroad. These bases are costly in a number of ways: financially, politically, socially, and environmentally,” the embassy stressed.