Worried about militants sneaking into a restive Chinese region from war-torn Afghanistan, Beijing is in talks with Kabul over the construction of a military base, Afghan officials said, as it seeks to shore up its fragile neighbor.
The military camp is to be built in Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols.
The freezing, barren panhandle of land — bordering China’s tense Xinjiang region — is so cut off from the rest of Afghanistan that many inhabitants are unaware of the Afghan conflict, scraping out harsh, but peaceful lives.
However, they retain strong links with their neighbors in Xinjiang and with so few travelers in the region local interest in the Chinese visitors has been high, residents said.
China’s involvement in the military base comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeks to extend Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.
The Chinese are pouring billions of US dollars into infrastructure in South Asia.
With Afghanistan’s potential to destabilize the region, analysts said any moves there would be viewed through the prism of security.
Beijing fears that exiled Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement are passing through the Wakhan into Xinjiang to carry out attacks.
It also worries that Islamic State group militants fleeing Iraq and Syria could cross central Asia and Xinjiang to reach Afghanistan, or use the Wakhan Corridor to enter China, analysts said.
Afghan and Chinese officials discussed the plan in December last year in Beijing, but details are still being clarified, Afghan Ministry of Defense deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh said.
“We are going to build it, but the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers,” he said.
A senior Chinese embassy official in Kabul would only say Beijing is involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan.
NATO’s US-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan declined to comment, but US officials have previously welcomed China’s role in Afghanistan, noting they share the same security concerns.
Members of the Kyrgyz ethnic minority in Wakhan said in October last year they had been seeing Chinese and Afghan military patrols for months.
“The Chinese army first came here last summer and they were accompanied by the Afghan army,” said Abdul Rashid, a Kyrgyz chief.
The Afghan army arrived days earlier “and told us that the Chinese army would be coming here,” he said. “We were strictly told not to go near them or talk to them, and not to take any photos.”
China fears militancy could threaten its growing economic interests in the region, Kabul-based Center for Strategic and Regional Studies researcher Ahmad Bilal Khalil said.
“They need to have a secure Afghanistan,” he said, estimating Beijing had provided Kabul with more than US$70 million in military aid in the past three years.
Beijing has also flagged the possibility of including Afghanistan in the US$54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan.
“The anti-terrorism motivation is an important one, but it’s not as important as the bigger move to boost the CPEC,” Hong Kong-based political analyst Willy Lam (林和立) said.
Kabul is also keen for Beijing to have a “more active role,” said Andrew Small, author of The China-Pakistan Axis.
It hopes China would use its “special relationship” with Islamabad to encourage the Pakistani military, who wield significant influence over Afghanistan’s insurgents, to “force the Taliban into peace talks,” Small said.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big