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China infiltrating US "Red Zone" with investments

2023 Aug 06, 10:09, Washington

US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) General Laura Richardson said China is getting nearer to the United States by investing and expanding infrastructure in Latin American countries through its infamous Belt and Road Initiative, Voice of America (VOA) reported.

"They are on the 20-yard line to our homeland," SOUTHCOM General Laura Richardson told the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, using an American football analogy to illustrate how close China is to scoring on the United States.

"Or we could say they're on the first or second island chain to our homeland," she added.

Like other US military leaders, Richardson stated that Beijing had not yet established a real military post in the Western Hemisphere. However, worries have grown, particularly in light of June reports indicating that China may be planning to expand further after upgrading an intelligence collection facility in Cuba in 2019.

"There's not a Chinese base yet," Richardson said.

"But I see with all of this critical infrastructure investment with these BRI [Belt and Road Initiative] projects that there could possibly be some [bases] someday," she added.

There is a risk, according to SOUTHCOM's Richardson, citing, in particular, China's use of dual-use technologies to construct deep-water ports along vital waterways like the Panama Canal and the Strait of Magellan, which could allow Chinese officials to swiftly switch the facilities from civilian to military use, according to VOA.

Richardson also expressed alarm over the spread of Chinese telecom infrastructure in South and Central America, saying that five nations have already sourced their 5G mobile phone networks from China.

Another 24 nations, according to her, depend on China for their 3G or 4G mobile networks, and several of them are being given "almost zero cost" upgrades that would keep them dependent on Beijing for their communication requirements, according to VOA.

And so far, Richardson noted, the US has nothing better to offer.

"We are getting outcompeted by the Chinese right now," she said. "We have to be able to have alternative methods, alternative companies, alternative options for them [the Latin American countries] to be able to select."

According to VOA, China's attempts to develop vital infrastructure across South and Central America are preparing its armed forces for a potential foothold on the US border.

China is in the "red zone" the commander of US Southern Command said on Friday, warning that many of China's economic initiatives can easily be flipped to support a Chinese military presence.

This is not the first time SOUTHCOM's Richardson has warned about China's inroads into Central and South America.

During an appearance earlier this year at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, she spoke of "the tentacles of the PRC" reaching across the Western Hemisphere, noting 21 of 31 Latin American countries had signed on to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, with 17 welcoming Chinese investment in their deep-water ports.

China’s embassy in Washington, however, dismissed such concerns as “lies and rumours… and slander.”

“To date, over three-quarters of countries around the world have joined this initiative, which has generated 420,000 jobs in these countries and helped more and more countries speed up economic growth,” Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told VOA via email.

“The BRI is well-received among the world most importantly because it is an initiative of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits,” Liu added.

“China never imposes its will on other countries, nor does it slip any selfish geopolitical agenda into the initiative," he added. 


Washington Southern Command SOUTHCOM Laura Richardson china United States infrastructure Latin America Belt and Road Initiative Red Zone
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