China building military training base in Afghanistan Beijing denies SCMP report, published through Afghan embassy

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Nation special report
BEIJING: In a new development related to Afghan issue, the South China Morning Post citing unidentified sources with ties to the Chinese military said, China was building the camp in the Wakhan Corridor, a narrow area that separates Tajikistan from Pakistan, in efforts to improve counterterrorism efforts in the war-torn country.

The Hong-Kong based daily in its article published on Tuesday said that once the base is completed, Beijing will dispatch its hundreds of troops, amounting to at least one battalion. A battalion could consist of more than 500 soldiers, according to the Post.

However, China very next day on Wednesday denied the report. It was not the first time reports have pointed to China seeking a military presence in Afghanistan, although it has denied all of them. Last year, China opened its first overseas military base, in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti. It has previously denied having plans for other overseas bases, but the United States expects it to build more, with Pakistan a likely location.

Song Zhongping, a military analyst based in Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post that the new base could serve as a training base to help “strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation and military exchanges between Beijing and Kabul.”

“Afghanistan is very weak on counterterrorism,” Song told the Post adding “And the authorities there are worried about Taliban resurgence, but they can’t do anything about it without help from the US, China, and other countries.” (ANI)

South China Morning Post claims that the information was sent to its office in a fax by Afghan embassy in Beijing that China is helping Afghanistan to set up a mountain brigade in the country’s north to boost counterterrorism efforts. But “there will be no Chinese military personnel of any kind on Afghan soil at any time”.

The embassy said the Afghan government appreciated China’s assistance and that the countries’ militaries were working in close coordination, without giving further details. Sources close to the Chinese military earlier told the Post that China had funded and started building a training camp for Afghan troops in Afghanistan’s isolated Wakhan Corridor – a narrow strip of inhospitable and barely accessible land extending about 350km from the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan to China’s Muslim region of Xinjiang.

One of the sources said that once the camp was completed, the People’s Liberation Army was likely to send troops there, but the embassy denied the claim, saying no Chinese military personnel would be stationed in Afghanistan.

China denies report

China on Wednesday denied that it planned to build a military base in Afghanistan, after a Hong Kong newspaper said Beijing was constructing a training camp for Afghan troops to which it could also send its own soldiers.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed the report, however.“After looking into it, the relevant report is not true,” she told a daily news briefing.

“Since the construction and training, this situation, it doesn’t exist – it’s not true. So anything related naturally is not true,” Hua added, dismissing the assertion about China eventually sending its own soldiers. She did not elaborate. The Defence Ministry did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

It was not the first time reports have pointed to China seeking a military presence in Afghanistan, although it has denied all of them. In January, the defense ministry denied a similar report that it planned to build a military base in Afghanistan. It has also previously dismissed reports that Chinese military vehicles were patrolling in the south Asian nation.

China has long worried that instability in Afghanistan could spill over into its violence-prone Xinjiang region, home to the Muslim Uighur people.

In recent years, hundreds of people have been killed in the far western region in unrest China blames on Islamist militants.

China has also worked with Pakistan and the United States to broker peace talks to end Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency that has raged since the militants were ousted by U.S.-backed forces in 2001. Last year, China opened its first overseas military base, in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti. It has previously denied having plans for other overseas bases, but the United States expects it to build more, with Pakistan a likely location.