22 April 2014
When Chinese naval supply vessel Qiandaohu entered Australia’s Albany Port this month to replenish Chinese warships helping search for a missing Malaysian airliner, it highlighted a strategic headache for Beijing – its lack of offshore bases and friendly ports to call on.
China’s deployment for the search – 18 warships, smaller coastguard vessels, a civilian cargo ship and an Antarctic icebreaker – has stretched the supply lines and logistics of its rapidly expanding navy, Chinese analysts and regional military attaches say.
China’s naval planners know they will have to fill this strategic gap to meet Beijing’s desire for a fully operational blue-water navy by 2050 – especially if access around Southeast Asia or beyond is needed in times of tension.
China is determined to eventually challenge Washington’s traditional naval dominance across the Asia Pacific and is keen to be able to protect its own strategic interests across the Indian Ocean and Middle East.
… Closer to home, the disputed South China Sea offers few solutions. China’s eight fortified holdings on reefs and islets across the contested Spratly archipelago are not considered big enough for a significant offshore base, according to Richard Bitzinger, a regional military analyst at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
GPO / IDSS / RSIS / Print
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