Defense expert: China will make Pacific friends to escape US encirclement
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Professor Zeno Leoni, defence studies lecturer at King’s College London, said China feels “strategically constrained” in the Pacific, as well as the South and the East China Sea, and “needs to make friends” to escape that. Professor Leoni was speaking to Express.co.uk in light of China’s draft pact agreement with the Solomon Islands that could see China build a military base in the Pacific.
Professor Leoni said: “Strategically speaking, what I can say is that China feels strategically constrained within the first island chain because it is surrounded by countries that have a military partnership with the United States.
“It’s also a complicated geography. So, from a strategic point of view, I see that deal bringing China the benefit of being able to operate beyond or outside the constraints of the first island chain.
“And so that’s actually very important from a manoeuvrability point of view. That said it might be that this agreement might just be an opportunity to show that China cares about them and it wants to support their security.
“And at the end of the day, China does not only need a military infrastructure. They also need to make friends to get the votes inside international institutions. So, there is also that.”
Collin Beck, the permanent secretary of foreign affairs and a senior figure in the Solomons government, issued a public defence of the pact with China earlier this week.
He said the deal was necessary to tackle domestic challenges, such as a population growing faster than the economy could support.
He said: “When we look at the security vulnerability of the country, you know, we have a youth population, about 18,000 youth looking for jobs every year.”
He said the “police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement” from China would prove essential in “maintaining social order” and “protecting people’s lives and property”.
It comes as the US restated its pledge to support countries such as the Philippines against China’s “provocative actions” in the South China Sea.
The United States state department said today it backs the Philippines in calling on China “to end its provocative actions and respect international law in the South China Sea”.
The Philippines last week lodged a new diplomatic protest against China’s maritime activities within Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
And elsewhere, Japan said that Chinese unilateral development of resources in the East China Sea was continuing despite a 2008 agreement for bilateral cooperation in the area’s waters.
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In the East China Sea, where no official border between the two countries have been drawn, China has constructed more than a dozen gas exploration platforms on the west of the equidistance line between them.
The Japanese foreign ministry said it filed a protest with a senior official at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo after its navy had found a base structure of a new platform being transported there.
The ministry said in a statement: “It is extremely regrettable that China is proceeding with its unilateral development activity, even though it is on the west side of the equidistance line between Japan and China.”
Ties between China and Japan, the world’s second-and third-largest economies, have long been plagued with a territorial dispute over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea as well as the legacy of Japan’s wartime aggression.
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