Pentagon report to Congress notes Chinese involvement in Sri Lanka

The Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress on military and security developments involving China, has taken note of Sri Lanka’s deal with China on the Hambantota Port.

The report China’s leaders increasingly seek to leverage China’s growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional preeminence and expand the country’s international influence.

According to the report, the “One Belt, One Road,” now renamed the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), is intended to develop strong economic ties with other countries, shape their interests to align with China’s, and deter confrontation or criticism of China’s approach to sensitive issues.

Countries participating in BRI could develop economic dependence on Chinese capital, which China could leverage to achieve its interests.

The report released last week, notes that in July 2017, Sri Lanka and a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) signed a 99-year lease for Hambantota Port, following similar deals in Piraeus, Greece, and Darwin, Australia.

The report also notes that In 2017, China continued counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden by deploying its 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th naval escort task forces to the area since 2008.

In April 2017, Chinese special forces, under the cover of an Indian naval helicopter, boarded a hijacked cargo ship and rescued the crew. China also continued to send submarines to the Indian Ocean, ostensibly in support of its counterpiracy patrols.

Chinese attack submarines conducted port calls in Seppangar, Malaysia and Karachi, Pakistan, but they were denied a port call in Colombo by Sri Lanka.

The Pentagon report says the submarine patrols demonstrate the PLAN’s emerging capability both to interdict key sea lines of communication (SLOC) and to increase China’s power projection into the Indian Ocean. (Colombo Gazette)

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