China denies reports to set up 18 naval bases in Indian Ocean
Beijing: Defending its submarine's docking at Colombo port as common practice, Chinese military today termed “utterly groundless” reports that it is setting up 18 naval bases in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar and several other places in the western and southern Indian Ocean.
“The report is not accurate”, Geng Yansheng told a media briefing here replying to a question about a report published in a Namibian newspaper on November 11 quoting a Chinese media report stating that China plans to set up 18 naval in several places including Sri Lanka.
Geng said the submarine of the China's People's Liberation Navy (PLAN) made “technical docking” twice in Colombo port while on escort mission to anti-piracy operations in Gulf of Aden in Somalia.
The submarine's docking evoked concerns in India especially in the backdrop that Colombo port was renovated with large funding from China.
India reportedly took up the issue with Sri Lanka, where China also built another port at Hambanthota.
“It is quite common practice for the submarines to dock in certain ports for replenishments”, Geng said. About the report published in the “Namibian” newspaper, he said “we have done some investigation and found that this report cited an unofficial commentary published in the internet about two years ago”.
“The report also exaggerated and twisted the content of that commentary. Therefore the report is utterly groundless”, he said. Asked to clarify under what conditions the Chinese military would set up bases abroad he said “currently there are no military bases abroad for the Chinese military”.
China in the past has maintained that it had no plans for establishing military bases abroad as it expanded its navy with modern fleet including an aircraft carrier.
The Namibian report said Walvis Bay of Namibia will be one of 18 naval bases to be established by Chinese in various countries including Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Mynanmar in the northern Indian Ocean, Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique in the western Indian Ocean and Seychelles and Madagascar in the central South Indian Ocean.