China is set to expand its military capabilities across the globe, with new overseas bases in countries like Pakistan, as the world's largest army seeks an increased role in defending China's interests abroad, a report by the US Pentagon has said.
The construction of a military outpost in Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world to support distant deployments, the Pentagon report said.
''China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,'' the report said.
''This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China's growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.''
Last year China began building its first overseas base in the African nation of Djibouti, already home to Camp Lemonnier, a large US installation in the Horn of Africa nation responsible for counter terrorism operations in the Persian Gulf and eastern and North Africa.
The new base is frequently cited in the Pentagon report, along with wider ambitions for additional installations. Pakistan was singled out as a likely location and it is already the largest buyer of Chinese-made arms.
China's spent $180 billion on the People's Liberation Army last year, according to the annual report from the US defence department, but officials admitted that figure could not account for all spending due to ''poor accounting transparency''. That estimate is significantly higher than China's official defence budget of about $140 billion.
The annual assessment of China's military might also notes that while China has not seized much new land to create more man-made islands, it has substantially built up the reefs with extended runways and other military facilities. And it has increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them.
Though the Djibouti base construction is near Camp Lemonnier, American military leaders have said they don't see it as a threat that will interfere with US operations there.
China has become increasingly assertive militarily in recent years, especially in territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas, where it frequently challenges US warships and planes. Military expansion overseas also ties into a $900 billion infrastructure initiative championed by President Xi Jinping to create a new Silk Road, with some of the planned projects in unstable regions like Afghanistan and Pakistan.