PLA Expanding Power Through Belt and Road Initiative

Randall Schriver / Getty Images

 

Schriver: U.S. to bolster Taiwan air defenses, submarines

China’s military is a key player in the Belt and Road economic initiative around the world that is being used to expand Beijing’s overall global power, a senior Pentagon Asian affairs official says.

Separately, the Pentagon is working with Taiwan’s government to bolster the island’s air defenses in the face of growing missile and aircraft threats from China, said Randall G. Schriver, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs.

Schriver said in an interview that expanding Chinese military bases and access to foreign ports around the world is a key feature of Beijing’s Belt and Road global infrastructure development initiative.

“The military is supportive of a comprehensive strategy and in many ways the leading edge is predatory economics,” Shriver told the Washington Free Beacon.

Both Chinese military and commercial expansion are “supportive and complimentary of one another,” he said, adding “where China is using economic tools, they’re often doing so in order to create access and potential bases.”

China has one overseas military base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and is seeking additional bases in South Asia and the Middle East, including at Pakistan’s Gwadar port, nearby Jiwani, Pakistan, and further west near Iran.

China also operates large-scale commercial port facilities around the world, including at both ends of the Panama Canal, that the Pentagon has dubbed part of China’s “string of pearls” base system along sea routes to China.

Asked if the Pentagon is seeing a Chinese foreign basing structure develop, Schriver said: “There’s kind of a spectrum on which of those activities can fall. They don’t necessarily need full up bases like Djibouti. A nearer term step might be gaining access. What we do see is some of their infrastructure projects, and particularly where they’re looking at ports and infrastructures around ports, we believe they’re also negotiating for access in many cases.”

An access agreement would allow Chinese troops, aircraft, and ships to use bases and facilities.

Schriver made the comments in discussing the Pentagon’s latest annual report to Congress on the Chinese military, made public last month.

The People’s Liberation Army, as the Communist Party-controlled military is called, has made quantitative and qualitative advances in both weapons and strategy after many years of large military spending increases, Schriver said.

“You definitely see steady progress. That’s what you get with 8 to 10 percent increases in your official budget every year—we know they are spending more—and it’s with a purpose and its in support of a strategy,” he said.

Chinese military advances in both nuclear and conventional arms, with an emphasis on new and more capable missile systems, is “all the more reason to implement the national defense strategy and respond in a way that helps us keep our edge,” Schriver said.

On Taiwan, Schriver said the Pentagon has been discussing Taipei’s air defense requirements with Taiwanese officials and is considering sales of new weapons.

Taiwan currently has several Patriot anti-missile batteries and an aging fleet of F-16 jets.

The island is heavily outgunned by China, which has deployed more than 1,500 short- and medium-range missiles within range of Taiwan.

In April, Chinese military forces conducted large-scale war games near Taiwan in a show of force designed to deter the island from declaring formal independence.

The Pentagon report said that in the year between 2016 and 2017 China increased the number of strike aircraft and bombers by 130 aircraft, from 400 bombers last year to 530 bombers this year.

Schriver said not all the new strike aircraft are heavy bombers. Many are “strike aircraft designed for contingencies in the near abroad.”

“A lot of this is scenario driven and Taiwan remains a central organizing principle for the PLA,” he said as well as for contingencies in the East China Sea, and South China Sea.

“So that would entail multi-role strike aircraft as well as the heavy bombers,” he said.

The Trump administration is moving to end the practice of selling large, multi-billion dollar arms packages to Taiwan.

On China’s nuclear weapons buildup, Schriver said Beijing is upgrading all three legs of their triad of forces: H-6 bombers, long-range missiles, and ballistic missile submarines.

“So their version of a triad is being strengthened,” he said. “It’s still one of the more opaque areas, particularly when you get to questions of how many warheads.”

China’s nuclear arms programs are among the more secret military efforts and are largely located in a 3,000-mile-long underground complex dubbed China’s Great Underground Wall.

Beijing also is adding multiple warheads to its missiles raising questions about estimates of the number of warheads in its arsenal.

China is believed to have at least 260 strategic nuclear warheads and an unknown number of smaller tactical nuclear warheads.

However, the actual number could be much higher.

Full article: PLA Expanding Power Through Belt and Road Initiative (Washington Free Beacon)

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