Two brigades of ‘special combat soldiers’ had already been moved to the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps and further additions would be made, military insiders told the Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post.
1China might station marines in Gwadar, say PLA insiders.
2China has constructed a deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea in Gwadar.
3Two brigades of special combat soldiers moved to PLA navy marine corps.
China’s navy plans to expand its marine corps and may station new marine brigades in Gwadar, Pakistan and in Djibouti near the Gulf of Aden, Chinese military insiders have said.
Two brigades of “special combat soldiers” had already been moved to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy marine corps and further additions would be made, military insiders told the Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post.
The PLA navy plans to more than double the strength of its marine corps to around 1 lakh, the report said, with brigades to be stationed at overseas ports China is operating in Gwadar in Pakistan and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
China has constructed a deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea in Gwadar which it is also operating and developing into a key fulcrum of its “Belt and Road” Initiative. China is also building an economic corridor from its western Xinjiang region to Gwadar, which also serves as an important foothold and gateway for China to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.
FIRST OVERSEAS FACILITY
In Djibouti, the PLA is setting up its first overseas facility. Chinese officials have insisted it is not a “base” citing their long-standing policy of not operating overseas military bases, but the facility will effectively function as one, catering to PLA navy vessels that are involved in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
As China’s Parliament or National People Congress winds up its annual session on Wednesday, Chinese military officials have called for boosting the PLA navy. The NPC approved a 7 per cent rise in defence spending, much of which is likely to go to the PLA navy as the army undertakes a cut of 3 lakh personnel.
“China is a maritime country and as we defend our maritime rights and develop our interests, the Âstatus of the navy will be more Âimportant,” Liu Xiaojiang, a former navy political commissar, was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post at the NPC.
CHINA’S OVERSEAS ASSETS
Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, added to the paper that an expanded marine corps would be required to protect China’s overseas assets, as in Djibouti and Gwadar.
“Besides its original missions of a possible war with Taiwan, maritime defence in the East and South China seas, it’s also foreseeable that the PLA navy’s mission will expand overseas, including protection of China’s national security in the Korean peninsula, the country’s maritime lifelines, as well as offshore supply deports like in Djibouti and Gwadar port in Pakistan,” he said. “However, the current size of the marines and its equipment are very limited and not enough to cope with the upcoming new challenges.”
Chinese experts have at the on-going NPC session also called for China to boost its aircraft carrier programme, with Beijing’s second carrier set for sea trials by 2019. PLA Navy Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo who is also a member of parliament said China “needs two carrier strike groups in the West Pacific Ocean and two in the Indian Ocean. So we need at least five to six aircraft carriers.”