China’s plans to expand its influence in Central Asia may create friction with Russia, said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver during a press conference on Friday.
“the Chinese have growing interests in Central Asia in general and they’re looking for partners that will train with them, give them access. They — I think they have a variety of interests there that may include Afghanistan, but I think they have broader interests in Central Asia.,” said Schriver. “I know the Russians are also paying attention to that. And that could be a source of some friction there.”
On Thursday, the US Department of Defense released its China Military Energy Report for 2019. The report said China is seeking to increase its military footprint overseas and establish additional military bases in various parts of the world.
“We believe China will seek to establish additional military bases overseas, as well as points for access. Press reporting in 2018 indicated China sought to expand its military basing and access in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific,” he said.
“t’s important to note that all these developments occur in a larger context. China’s leaders are leveraging their growing diplomatic, economic, as well as their military clout to secure China’s status as a great power, and with the aim of becoming the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific,” he continued to say.
China, added the Pentagon official, also continues to militarize the South China Sea, including placing missiles and interference systems on the Spratly Islands.
Beijing has claims in the region that considers sovereign territory and built military bases on artificial islands.
The United States routinely threatens China with warship patrols in the so-called freedom-of-navigation exercises that have lately been augmented by bomber flights.
In addition, the US report pointed out that China’s declared goal is to become a world-class Army by 2049.