New Delhi / Washington: China has a plan to "isolate" India and Japan and project its power with an aim to control the Indian Ocean region, a US lawmaker warned on Thursday. Beijing, he said, has its eyes set on Taiwan, which it claims as part of China. The American lawmaker went on to say that Beijing's plan is to turn neighbouring country Taiwan into "a major nuclear and conventional military base."
By doing so, China will be able to project its influence into the Indian Ocean and be able to control the disputed South China Sea, he claimed.
Expressing concern over China's growing economic and military power, the US lawmaker warned that Beijing's long-term plan and ultimate intention is to "isolate both Japan and India" and have a major influence in the Indian Ocean region.
The American lawmaker, Richard D Fisher, of the International Assessment and Strategy Center told lawmakers on Thursday that Beijing has come up with a strategy for gaining eventual global military access called the "debt trap diplomacy".
"China may be using debt pressure right now to force Djibouti to limit US military access in that strategic base. It recently gained ownership of a new large port in Sri Lanka, again, by debt default. Vanuatu, Pakistan, Thailand and many others are vulnerable," Mr Fisher pointed out.
"A good reason to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which could be perhaps as early as the mid-2020s, is that China will turn Taiwan into a major nuclear and conventional military base," he said.
"This will then trigger Chinese moves to isolate Japan by consolidating even more control over the South China Sea. Beijing will then project its power into the Indian Ocean to isolate India. In Latin America, China will continue to exploit opportunities to cause trouble and gain military access," he claimed.
China claims almost all of South China Sea and has also laid claims on the Senkaku islands under the control of Japan in East China Sea. Beijing has already resorted to aggressive patrols in the region over the last two years. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the strategic and key waterway.
The United States periodically deploys its naval ships and fighter jets to assert and ensure freedom of navigation in the region, which is constantly under threat from China, he said.
"By the 2030s, the Chinese Air Force air mobile projection could be based on 100 to 200 large C-17 size Xian Y-20 heavy transports, and both their lightweight airborne forces and now medium-weight airborne projection forces are anticipated. China is assembling a power-projection Navy that, by the 2030s, may have the world's first totally nuclear-powered carrier battle group," Mr Fisher highlighted.
He went on to say that "It will have an initial amphibious projection of about 12 large ships expected as early as the early 2030s. The Chinese marines too are reforming into a force of about 100,000," he said.
Other US lawmakers too echoed Mr Fisher's concerns over China, saying they are valid and very much a reason for worry.
Congressman Devin Nunes, Chairman House Intelligence Committee said during a Congressional hearing, that "previous attempts to appease China had failed to improve the bilateral relations." He went on to say that, "In fact, China has only become emboldened and may now be the preeminent threat to American security, our economy and our values."
"From its One Belt One Road initiative to its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, China is using its economic and military power to constantly subvert international norms, undermine US national security, threaten our friends and allies, and reshape the global balance of power," Mr Nunes said.
Ranking Member Congressman Adam Schiff pointed out how China's military growth had taken place alongside the Belt and Road Initiative, which his colleague called a "debt trap".
China's massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa in a revival of the ancient Silk Road trading routes. The Belt and Road Initiative is Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitious plan to bring back ancient Chinese glory.
"Through the BRI and other tools such as the Asian Infrastructure Bank, China seems to be leading in economic engagement and then backfilling with greater military capacity as its capabilities grow," Mr Schiff said.
Highlighting Beijing's tightly-controlled "debt trap diplomacy", Mr Schiff said, "The Chinese Army base in Djibouti follows decades of Chinese investment and diplomacy in Africa and increasing oil imports by China, much of which passes through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait between Djibouti and Yemen."
"Similarly, Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea reflects a deliberate approach that seeks to protect core Chinese economic and strategic interests that have long predated the island reclamation effort and the buildup there," he said.
Dan Blumenthal from the American Enterprise Institute said that under the BRI initiative, a lot of the major construction and investment projects were going to places like Pakistan and Bangladesh, which will provide outlets for China into the Indian Ocean that don't have to go through the Straits of Malacca and other areas that the US is present in, ensuring free and fare trade.
"It really is a cash or investment-for-access deal, in many of these places," he said.
Calling the Xi Jinping's Silk Road as only a "facade" created by China, Mr Blumenthal said, "The BRI will never achieve, in my view, what Xi Jinping has said, which is to establish a Silk Road. But, through targeted investments, China will gain a lot in terms of access...The base in Djibouti is a very big deal, a very, very big deal, and is the fruit of cash for diplomacy, as well."
(With inputs from PTI)