China plans to increase the number of its Marine Corps units from 20,000 to 100,000 in order to protect its vital marine communications and growing interests abroad, according to Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post citing military sources and experts.
The publication refers to the Chinese logistics base in Djibouti and port of Gwadar in the southwest of Pakistan. The areas of protection of interests also include the Korean Peninsula, the East China and South China Sea, and land and sea territories along the Silk Road, including Afghanistan.
The newspaper further noted that the Chinese marine contingent has been nearly doubled to the existing 20,000 by transferring two regular army brigades to their squad.
Simultaneously, with an increase to 100,000 servicemen the number of naval forces would also increase by 15 percent, as currently the number of personnel of the Chinese Navy is estimated at 235,000 men.
Sputnik spoke to Russian experts in an interview about this increase in the Marine Corps and they expressed no doubt about the validity of the assumptions made by these sources.
Russian military analyst Vladimir Evseev reminded that the US Marine Corps has 200,000 troops in its ranks.
“China is trying to create a marine infantry the number of which is only two times less than that of the United States. What does this mean? Of course, strengthening the presence in Djibouti is not the primary reason. The point is that China has growing interests in the Asia-Pacific Region,” Evseev said.
In fact, this is part of the policy of restraining the US; otherwise a five-fold increase in the number of Marines is simply not necessary. China wants to be a state comparable in military potential to the US in the Asia-Pacific Region [APR]. That's why it needs 100,000 marines, according to the analyst.
On the other hand, independent military analyst Zhao Chu argues with the opinion of the South China Morning Post article and with the Russian expert on the possible involvement of Chinese Marines in safeguarding China's security interests on the Korean Peninsula.
“Everyone knows that China and the DPRK are bound by a land border as in 1950 the Chinese volunteer units also entered the Korean peninsula by land, so it is very difficult to imagine that China can carry out a large-scale military invasion of the Korean Peninsula up to the deployment of a large-scale combat ready assault force. These sorts of statements are somewhat unfounded,” Zhao Chu said.
According to an expert on geopolitics and former analyst of the defense committee and the State Duma international affairs committee, Konstantin Sokolov, said that it is necessary to assess the number of marines primarily with respect to the territory that can be controlled.
“In East and South-East Asia, there are a lot of island territories that are part of the economic interests and security interests of China. I presume that if a likely enemy appears in these zones and there is a need of control, a large number of military police or the Marine Corps will be needed. Therefore, from my point of view, China, probably, can justifiably go on increasing the number of its marines,” Sokolov said.
The expert further said that the hotbed right now is of course the Korean Peninsula. One must understand why, for many decades and for several generations, it has been a point of confrontation.
“The scenario of the US seizing control over North Korea has not been lifted. This is the only point where one can create a land military bridgehead that would seriously threaten China along its land border with the DPRK. In strategic terms, this is the main point of ensuring security interests of China,” Sokolov said.
The expert further said that there are many scenarios but in principle, China faces the main task: in case of any destabilization of the situation, first of all in Asia, it will become necessary for China to use its Marine Corps.
“Not to mention other parts in the world, since China is a world power and it is natural that its interests exist everywhere,” the expert concluded.
Earlier it was reported that the possible deployment of China's marines in Djibouti is likely to increase the alertness of the United States. Recently, the head of the African Command of the US Armed Forces, Thomas Waldhauser, stated in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the very proximity of the Chinese military base in Djibouti to the American Lemonnier camp, which is located near Djibouti's international airport, poses a threat to the Pentagon.
The General also reminded the senators that the Chinese base strengthens the naval presence of China in the region.
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.