China is creeping further east across the Pacific Ocean with a new project that could put military assets thousands of miles closer to Hawaii.
According to Reuters, China has a partnership deal with a tiny island nation of Kiribati.
The goal of the deal is to develop an airstrip on one remote speck of land, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.
Kiribati lawmakers say that China has developed plans for upgrading an airstrip on Kanton, a small atoll. The Chinese plans also call for upgrading a bridge.
China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the communist nation was working on behalf of the Kiribati government.
The airstrip is being upgraded to assist with domestic transportation issues, the statement said.
China is seeking “mutually beneficial cooperation” with Kiribati and will work within the limits of its ability to provide help without any political conditions,” the statement said.
Kiribati broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 2019 and established ties with China instead.
The Drive reported that the airstrip China will be upgrading was used by the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII and that the island was used by the U.S. to track spacecraft and missiles until the 1960s.
The outlet speculated about China’s possible motives and potential uses for the airstrip.
“The existing runway at Canton Airport, once modernized, could be long enough to support fighter deployments, but the improved section would likely need to be extended out to the full 8,000 feet length to support large-size transports, as well as maritime patrol aircraft or even bombers,” the outlet reported.
“A considerable investment would also need to be made to supporting infrastructure to sustain any kind of meaningful, longer-term deployment by military aircraft, including hangars, fueling and maintenance facilities, and accommodations for aircrew and ground personnel.
“The location of the airstrip would be especially useful for surveillance aircraft flights, including those by long-endurance unmanned aircraft, extending reach toward both Hawaii in one direction, and Australia and New Zealand in the other. Persistent intelligence-gathering, sea control, and long-range maritime targeting would all be of interest for the People’s Liberation Army in this region.”
Even prior to reports of the airstrip project, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute was sounding an alarm over dredging projects China was conducting on Kiribati.
“These facilities would give China control over the world’s best tuna fishing grounds plus swathes of deep-sea mineral resources, and a presence near the US bases at Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, Johnston Atoll and Wake Island. They would also be positioned directly across the major sea lanes between North America and Australia and New Zealand,” consultant Steve Raaymakers wrote for the group.
“During World War II, Japan’s attempt to block the same lanes were defeated, starting with the Battle of the Coral Sea and then the taking of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands. Today, China is moving to achieve control over the vital trans-Pacific sea lines of communication under the guise of assisting with economic development and climate-change adaptation,” Raaymakers added.
“The developments in Kiribati are part of a much larger Pacific-wide Chinese strategy.”
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