The Washington Times on June 7, 2013, published an article by Bill Gertz in The Washington Free Beacon on China quietly taking steps to encircle the United States by arming western hemisphere states, seeking closer military, economic, and diplomatic ties to U.S. neighbors, and sailing warships into U.S. maritime zones. Excerpts below:
The strategy is a Chinese version of what Beijing has charged is a U.S. strategy designed to encircle and “contain” China. It is also directed at countering the Obama administration’s new strategy called the pivot to Asia. The pivot calls for closer economic, diplomatic, and military ties to Asian states that are increasingly concerned about Chinese encroachment throughout that region.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to question President Barack Obama about the U.S. pivot during the summit meeting set to begin in California. Chinese state-run media have denounced the new U.S. policy as an effort to “contain” China and limit its growing power.
The Chinese strategy is highlighted by Xi’s current visit to Trinidad, Costa Rica, and Mexico where he announced major loans of hundreds of millions of dollars that analysts say is part of buying influence in the hemisphere.
U.S. officials say the visit to the region has several objectives, including seeking to bolster Chinese arms sales to the region amid efforts by Russian arms dealers to steal market share.
States including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Mexico recently purchased Chinese arms but are said to be unhappy with the arms’ low quality.
Venezuela, a key oil-producing U.S. adversary, has announced that China agreed to a $4 billion loan for oil development.
And in Mexico this week, Xi announced China is extending a $1 billion line of credit for oil development and pledged another $1 billion trade deal.
U.S. officials say there are concerns that the pro-Beijing shift by the current government of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who visited China in April, will be exploited by China for such political goals, and could be used to generate support for China’s claims to Japan’s Senkaku Islands.
U.S. officials said there are growing fears that some type of military confrontation could break out between China and Japan over the disputed islands that are said to contain large underwater gas and oil reserves.
North of the U.S. border, Canada this week concluded a military cooperation agreement with China during the visit to Beijing by Canadian Defense Minister Peter G. Mackay. The agreement calls for closer cooperation between the two militaries, including bilateral military exchanges.
At a security conference in Singapore last month, the commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, Adm. Samuel Locklear, confirmed the earlier disclosure by a Chinese military officer that China’s military has been conducting naval incursions into the 200-mile U.S. Economic Exclusion Zone around U.S. territory.
It is not clear why China is conducting naval operations it considers illegal for its maritime boundaries inside U.S. EEZs.
“They are, and we encourage their ability to do that,” Locklear said, without explaining why the activity was encouraged or where the Chinese vessels had transited.
Larry Wortzel, a former military intelligence official and specialist on China, said the Chinese military has sent intelligence collection ships into Guam’s economic zone and also the zone around the Hawaiian islands.
On Chinese inroads in the western hemisphere, Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst, said China is moving strategically on Latin America, working methodically as part of a decades-long effort to build economic and political clout there.
Intelligence cooperation with Cuba is “substantial,” Fisher says, and will expand sharply in the region through the activities of its state-run telecommunications firms such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE in the region.
China currently is “promoting almost all of its non-nuclear weapons in that region,” Fisher said.
“It has promoted the Chengdu J-10 4th generation fighter in Venezuela and Argentina, and even Peru may be considering the J-10 for its future fighter program,” he said.
At a recent arms expo in Peru, China was selling a 22,000-ton helicopter amphibious assault ship and an export version of its relatively advanced Yuan-class attack submarine.
In Venezuela, China is helping the Caracas government circumvent U.S. arms embargoes by helping repair Venezuela’s U.S.-made gas turbine engines on frigates, he said.
…China is quietly evolving on the global stage and implanting itself across the map with major overseas Chinese communities.
China also has set up commercial bases in key chokepoints around the Caribbean, through its Chinese-run port facilities in Panama, Bahamas, Trinidad, and Venezuela over the past decade.
China also is investing heavily in Africa, the Middle East, and Indian Ocean region.