A new Pentagon report released late this week has voiced deep concern over increased Chinese military presence in the Arctic region, including nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which Beijing plans to produce at least five more of by 2020.
The Pentagon assessment explores and analyzes China’s potential to erect a “Polar Silk Road” as an extension of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. This would include likely deployment of security assets, such as submarines acting as nuclear deterrents and military bases in far-flung locations, found the report.
Beijing itself hasn’t been secretive about this scenario, given it published an Arctic policy white paper last June, which outlined long term strategic expansion into the globe’s northernmost climes, despite China’s geography as a non-Arctic state.
Some of the highlights of the Pentagon report are as follows…
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Military expansion under the guise of civilian research
“Civilian research could support a strengthened Chinese military presence in the Arctic Ocean, which could include deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks,” according to the report.
“China’s leaders are leveraging China’s growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional preeminence and expand the country’s international influence.”
Rapid submarine production related to Arctic expansion
“The speed of growth of the submarine force has slowed and (it) will likely grow to between 65 and 70 submarines by 2020,” the report predicted.
BRI and military bases around the world
“China’s advancement of projects such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative (OBOR) will probably drive military overseas basing through a perceived need to provide security for OBOR projects,” the Pentagon said.
“China 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 addressed the Taiwan issue
“China could use missile attacks and precision air strikes against air defense systems, including air bases, radar sites, missiles, space assets, and communications facilities to degrade Taiwan’s defenses, neutralize Taiwan’s leadership, or break the Taiwan people’s resolve,” the report said.
The Pentagon report outlined a number of potential scenarios that China might take if Beijing decides to use military force on Taiwan, including a comprehensive campaign “designed to force Taiwan to capitulate to unification, or unification dialogue,” according to Reuters.
Next Monday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in attendance at a meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council in Rovaniemi, Finland, where Arctic related economic and military cooperation will be discussed.
Notably, Scandinavian countries like Denmark have recently complained about China’s reach into Greenland, based in commercial interests on the energy rich island-continent.