10 May, 2021 Short Brief: Chinese Pushing To Improve Kiribati Airfield

Last week, media outlets broke a story that the Chinese government has plans to restore and upgrade an airstrip on Kiribati, an independent island nation in the South Pacific. Kiribati is located roughly 1900 miles southwest of the Hawaiian Islands, an area directly inside America’s Pacific sphere of influence. On one hand, it should come as no surprise to see the Chinese government extending an offer to improve Kiribati’s infrastructure. China has been embarking on infrastructure improvement programs across a large swath of the Third World for some time now. In some locations the programs are directly linked to the Belt and Road while in others, they serve the dual purpose of extending Chinese influence, as well as its potential military reach in a time of conflict. And as an added bonus, For Beijing, Kiribati is tantalizingly close to Hawaii. Not near enough to see Waikiki, but close enough to make Washington uneasy. On the surface, China’s designs on Kiribati may seem harmless enough, but appearances are often misleading. An improved airfield is only a start. Improvement to, or expansion of Kiribati’s port facilities could follow in the future, giving the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) a potential toehold in the eastern Pacific.

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