China denies setting up military base in Afghanistan
Advertisement

China denies setting up military base in Afghanistan

The People's Liberation Army parade at the Zhurihe military training base in China's Inner Mongolia region.

The People's Liberation Army parade at the Zhurihe military training base in China's Inner Mongolia region.

Islamabad: China has denied it plans to build a military base in Afghanistan, after a Hong Kong newspaper said Beijing was constructing a training camp for Afghan troops to which it could also send its own soldiers.

The South China Morning Post, citing unidentified sources with ties to the Chinese military, said China was building the camp in the narrow Wakhan Corridor, in the north-east province of Badakhshan, that links the two countries.

It said hundreds of troops would cross the border from China's western Xinjiang region to carry out counter-terrorism training.

Advertisement

The base would be the second overseas site for the increasingly active Chinese military. A year ago, a base opened in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed the report, however.

"After looking into it, the relevant report is not true," she told a daily news briefing.

"Since the construction and training, this situation, it doesn't exist - it's not true. So anything related naturally is not true," Hua added, dismissing the assertion about China eventually sending its own soldiers.

She did not elaborate. The Defence Ministry did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

The newspaper reported about 500 troops would train their Afghan counterparts in the Wakhan Corridor. Despite Chinese denials, the report said work had already begun at the site.

China has long worried that instability in Afghanistan could spill into Xinjiang and damage its economic plans for a 21st century Silk Road - the Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing has been accused of conducting a severe security crackdown on the Xinjiang's Muslim Uighur minority, but says it is tackling Islamist violence.

It is particularly worried about separatist militants from Xinjiang's Uighurs, fighting and training there. Afghanistan is also home to Islamic State fighters who in the past have vowed that "blood will flow in rivers" in China. In recent years, hundreds of people have been killed in the far western region in unrests China blames on Islamist militants.

It was not the first time reports have pointed to China seeking a military presence in Afghanistan, although it has denied all of them.

Loading

In January, the ministry denied a similar report that it planned to build a base in Afghanistan. It has also previously dismissed reports that Chinese military vehicles were patrolling in the south Asian nation.

China is believed to have forgiven of Afghanistan's debts, along with Burundi and Guinea.

China has also worked with Pakistan and the United States to broker peace talks to end Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency that has raged since the militants were ousted by US-backed forces in 2001.

From left, Afghanistan's Salahuddin Rabbani, China's Wang Yi and Pakistan's Khawaja Asif at the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Dialogue in Beijing in December.

From left, Afghanistan's Salahuddin Rabbani, China's Wang Yi and Pakistan's Khawaja Asif at the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Dialogue in Beijing in December.Credit:AP

It has previously denied having plans for other overseas bases, but the United States expects it to build more, with Pakistan a likely location.

A source told the South China Morning Post: "China will send at least one battalion, along with weapons and equipment, to be stationed there and provide training to their Afghan counterparts."

A Russian news agency reported earlier this year that Beijing would finance a new base in Badakhshan after the two countries agreed to cooperate in the fight against terrorism.

Two ethnic Kyrgyz women in the Karakorum mountain range in China's western Xinjiang province. The area, close to China's borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, is populated by a variety of ethnic groups.

Two ethnic Kyrgyz women in the Karakorum mountain range in China's western Xinjiang province. The area, close to China's borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, is populated by a variety of ethnic groups. Credit:AP

Song Zhongping, a military analyst in Hong Kong, said: "Afghanistan is very weak on counter-terrorism, and the authorities there are worried about a Taliban resurgence, but they can't do anything about it without help from the US, China and other countries."

A report rom the European Council of Foreign Relations last month said China feared attacks by groups such as IS on its economic projects in Pakistan and central Asia.

China is expected to strengthen its military presence in the region by setting up a naval logistics hub in the new Pakistani port of Gwadar.

The port is being built with large amounts of Chinese investment and is a cornerstone of its regional plans.

It will give Beijing access to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

China will control the port until 2059, when it will be transformed into Pakistan's second naval base.

Reuters; Telegraph, London

Most Viewed in World

Loading
Advertisement