Pakistan is among the possible locations likely to host a Chinese military base, said a Pentagon report released to the US Congress on Wednesday. The report went on to forecast that Beijing would likely build more bases overseas after establishing a facility in the African nation of Djibouti.
The 97-page annual assessment of China's military might made the prediction on the back of what the Pentagon estimated as defence spending exceeding $180 billion by the Chinese in 2016. That is higher than China's official defense budget figure of 954.35 billion yuan ($140.4 billion).
"China is most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan," the report noted.
It said that while China has not seized much new land to create more man-made islands, it has substantially built up the reefs with extended runways and other military facilities, besides increasing patrols and law enforcement to protect them.
The report said that, "China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict."
Pakistan has grown into a crucial link in China's Indian Ocean-focussed 'string of pearls' military strategy. It is already a primary market in the Asia-Pacific region for Chinese arms exports. The Pentagon report said that this region accounted for $9 billion of the more than $20 billion in Chinese arms exports from 2011 to 2015.
Djibouti's position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fuelled worries in India that it would become another of China's 'string of pearls' strategy of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.