(LinkAsia: February 3, 2012)
Now, some view China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea as part of a naval strategy that stretches all the way to the Persian Gulf. For example, China is building a deep-water port in Sri Lanka. China says its just helping Sri Lanka's economy, but others in Asia are skeptical about Beijing's motives. Here's how NHK reported on the Sri Lankan port.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: January 27, 2012
China is currently helping to construct seaports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh, sometimes referred to as China's "string of pearls." The ports encircle India. Some observers view them with suspicion, evidence of alleged Chinese ambitions over the region. Today's report from Sri Lanka looks at a massive port facility China is building on the island, and how India might respond. NHK World's Namini Wijedasa reports.
Construction is well underway at this seaport in Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka. Some facilities began operations in 2010. 85% of the cost of construction is being shouldered by China. The government claims that once complete, the port will be one of the biggest in south Asia, with capacity for 33 vessels, including some of the world's largest ships. Hambantota is situated at the mid-point of a crucial ceiling that connects the Persian Gulf with the Malacca Strait. It's an attractive position for a maritime hub.
Nilantha Siriwardana, Divisional Secretariat:
Located in the middle of a ceiling, we are well-placed to offer shipping and fuel services. It's a good opportunity for Sri Lanka to develop.
The port is being built by Chinese companies. And almost all the workers are Chinese. The massive project is already a popular tourist attraction.
We're really grateful to China. It's thanks to them that we can build such a port.
The Chinese activities in the town aren't limited to the seaport. This international airport has a 3.5-kilometer runway and is due to open this year. Here too, China is paying for some of the construction. The main contractor is also Chinese. Massive amounts of Chinese aid are transforming this once normal town into a transport center for the entire region. Some observers are concerned. They fear China might use the facilities for military purposes. But that's not a position shared by the Sri Lankan government. It welcomes Chinese economic support.
Basil Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan Economic Development Minister:
We will make sure that Sri Lanka will be very closely allied with India, and we will never do any harm. To my knowledge, China has never indicated anything like that kind of military assistance.
India is looking on with caution. It opened a consulate in Hambantota in November 2010 to gather information. For India, economic grow is a top priority. Confrontation with China is unappealing. For now, it has little choice but to try and keep the peace. With a careful eye on the developments taking place around the shores of the Indian Ocean. Namini Wijedasa, NHK World, Hambantota, Sri Lanka.