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08 June 2017, 02:03 | Floyd Cook
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army Marine Corps march during a military drill as the sun rises at a military base in Taonan Jil
China claims this facility is designed "to help the navy and army further participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations (PKO), carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and provide humanitarian assistance".
China's submarine force is likely to grow to almost 80 submarines by 2020, and Beijing's aircraft carrier Liaoning is expected to reach "initial operational capability" around that time, the annual report states.
The US military has previously fanned fears of emerging near-peer opponents such as Russian Federation and China, whom Washington perceives as prime national security threats.
Reacting to the Pentagon report, an editorial by Global Times, English daily under People's Daily (an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party) also said, "These reports suggest that the U.S. has decreasing confidence over its military supremacy in the West Pacific".
China started building its first overseas military base in February past year in the small nation of Djibouti, just a few kilometers from Camp Lemonnier, the USA base in the Horn of Africa nation.
A report presented at the Pentagon on Tuesday claimed that China is most likely to expand its military bases around the world and Pakistan will be a possible location for one such base.
Even though the economic growth in China has slowed down, the Chinese leaders appeared committed to defense spending hikes for the "foreseeable future". 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, states the report.
The report said the artificial islands have "enhanced China's ability to control disputed areas in the South China Sea and caused regional concern over China's long-term intentions". 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.
Last year, China inked an agreement with Pakistan for the sale of eight submarines. "Once all these facilities are complete, China will have the capacity to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands".
Other major Asia-Pacific customers of Chinese military equipment include Bangladesh and Burma, it said.
"It is perfectly normal for China to build defense facilities on its own territory", a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said previous year, "This is the normal right of a sovereign state as recognized by global law".
In March 2016, China announced a seven percent inflation-adjusted increase in its annual military budget to Dollars 144.3 billion, continuing more than two decades of annual defense spending increases and sustaining its position as the second largest military spender in the world after the United States.
China has already installed fixed, land-based naval guns on the four smaller Spratly outposts on Johnson, Gaven, Hughes, and Cuarteron Reefs.
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