Pentagon reveals ‘concerns’ about China’s influence over Mauritius amid threat to Diego Garcia base

Author: Yuvi March 24, 2023

The Pentagon has admitted it is worried about growing Chinese influence in Mauritius amid warnings that plans by the United Kingdom to return a chain of islands to the Indian Ocean nation could undermine the security of the vital military base on Diego Garcia.

Rep. Mike Waltz, Republican chairman of the House military readiness subcommittee, wrote to the Department of Defense in December seeking assurances that any deal would not allow China to encroach on the US base.

That could have a ‘catastrophic’ impact on US military reach, he said at the time.

In its response, the Pentagon said it shared its concerns about growing Chinese influence.

And it said it was working to ensure London understood its position as it negotiated the handover of the Chagos Islands.

In a letter to Rep. Mike Waltz, Colin Kahl, under secretary of defense for policy, said he shared the Republican’s concerns about growing Chinese ties with Mauritius

That raises concerns about the status of the US base on Diego Garcia as the United Kingdom negotiates the return of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius.

That raises concerns about the status of the US base on Diego Garcia as the United Kingdom negotiates the return of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius.

‘The Department of Defense shares your concerns about the People’s Republic of China’s interest in deepening ties with Mauritius and littoral East African countries that form the westernmost border of the Indian Ocean,’ wrote Colin Kahl, under secretary of defense, in a letter shared with DailyMail.com.

‘The United States recognizes UK sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory and regards the sovereignty dispute as a bilateral matter between the UK and Mauritius. We support UK-Mauritius engagement to resolve the issue.

The Chagos islands are little more than specks in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The biggest is Diego Garcia, home to a US military base from where warplanes can reach maritime chokepoints, vital sea lanes and even potential Chinese bases everywhere from Djibouti to Pakistan.

Plans for a handover seek to right a decades-long injustice.

The UK claimed the islands from France in the nineteenth century. But in the 1960s and 1970s it removed the local population to make way for a base on Diego Garcia, which is leased to the US.

The residents have campaigned ever since for the right to return.

Three years ago, the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court, ruled that the British occupation of the islands was illegal and that the archipelago was part of Mauritius.

Last month, Human Rights Watch said the US and UK were guilty of ‘colonial crimes.’

Diego Garcia is the largest island in the Chagos Archipelago.  Its position in the center of the Indian Ocean gives it a crucial strategic location and it is the site of a US naval support facility, hosting nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, and staging special operations forces.

Diego Garcia is the largest island in the Chagos Archipelago. Its position in the center of the Indian Ocean gives it a crucial strategic location and it is the site of a US naval support facility, hosting nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, and staging special operations forces.

Republican Rep.  Mike Waltz is chairman of the House subcommittee on military readiness. Colin Kahl, under secretary of defense

Republican Rep. Mike Waltz has taken up the issue as he seeks to defend Diego Garcia from creeping Chinese influence. ‘The Department of Defense shares your concerns about the People’s Republic of China’s interest in deepening ties with Mauritius,’ wrote Colin Kahl, under secretary of defence, in a letter shared with DailyMail.com

Negotiations began last year to hand the islands to Mauritius. And the UK has said that any deal will protect the status of the US base.

But critics have warned that there would be nothing to stop Mauritius allowing China — which has poured $1 billion of investment into the country in recent years — to build facilities on one of the other, nearby islands.

Waltz said: ‘It is my hope the Biden Administration will continue to push for safeguards to protect US military presence at Diego-Garcia and coordinate with our British allies to ensure Mauritius is not adversely influenced by Chinese Communist Party presence in the Indian Ocean.

The issue has also been raised by British Members of Parliament in London.

In his response Kahl said the US was working with the UK to safeguard the base.

‘The specific arrangement involving the facilities on Diego Garcia is grounded in the unique close and active defense and security partnership between the United States and the UK,’ he wrote

‘We are working closely with the UK on this issue and are confident that the UK is aware of US priorities and the importance of continued access to Diego Garcia.’

Displaced Chagos Islanders have fought for years to return home.  Most now live in Mauritius or the United Kingdom but won a victory in 2019 when the United Nations' highest court ruled that the British occupation of the islands was illegal

Displaced Chagos Islanders have fought for years to return home. Most now live in Mauritius or the United Kingdom but won a victory in 2019 when the United Nations’ highest court ruled that the British occupation of the islands was illegal

US Strategic Command in November took the unusual step of revealing that the ballistic missile submarine USS West Virginia had stopped during October as it made a nuclear 'deterrence patrol' of the Indian Ocean

US Strategic Command in November took the unusual step of revealing that the ballistic missile submarine USS West Virginia had stopped during October as it made a nuclear ‘deterrence patrol’ of the Indian Ocean

He also offered to keep Waltz and his staff up to speed with classified briefings.

Waltz previously said that he had two demands for Diego Garcia.

‘One, that the basing agreements there are ironclad and two that we’re not going to see the Chinese Communist Party move in and militarize an island in the Chagos, just like it has in the South China Sea.’

He said the Chinese playbook was clear in other parts of the world.

‘We’ve seen this movie before with the Chinese Communist Party,’ he said. ‘We’re seeing how aggressively they’re moving, for example, into the Solomons, where they’ve now entered into a pact for Chinese military police and perhaps to be able to reject any US basing or overflight,’ he said.

‘And that’s the fear with this negotiation with the Chagos islands and Mauritius in the United Kingdom.’

For his part, the British foreign secretary has said the base will be safeguarded in any deal.

‘The UK and Mauritius have reiterated that any agreement between our two countries will ensure the continued effective operation of the joint UK/US military base on Diego Garcia, which plays a vital role in regional and global security,’ said James Cleverly as negotiations began .

Its location makes it ideally suited for operations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Its location makes it ideally suited for operations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia gives the US an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ in the Indian Ocean Warplanes can be seen lined up at the base on Diego Garcia in this Google photo

Warplanes can be seen lined up at the base on Diego Garcia in this Google photo

Diego Garcia is a militarized atoll, just south of the Equator in the Indian Ocean.

As part of the British Indian Ocean Territory it is controlled by London, which has leased a military facility to the US since 1966, when Washington was keen to extend its influence in the Indian Ocean at the height of the Cold War.

Its position – about 2200 miles east of the African coast of Tanzania and 1200 miles west of the southern tip of India – gives its heavy bombers access to a string of key maritime and military targets.

The base is about 2200 miles east of the African coast of Tanzania and 1200 miles west of the southern tip of India.

The base is about 2200 miles east of the African coast of Tanzania and 1200 miles west of the southern tip of India.

The ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ has been a vital asset during the Iranian Revolution (when rescue missions used it as a staging post), the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Operation Desert Fox in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

It serves as a logistics and support base for naval vessels, warplanes and special forces.

Port facilities to accommodate air carriers were completed in 1985.

And an airfield was built four years later allowing the arrival of B52 Stratofortress bombers and aerial refueling aircraft.

The atoll also hosts the United States Marine Pre-positioning Squadron Two, made up of seven vessels packed with tanks, armored personnel carriers, munitions, fuel, spare parts and even a mobile field hospital for rapid deployment to war zones.

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at newscinema.in

24 March, 2023, 2:23 am

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