Kiribati Clamor: Western Experts Fear Chinese Runway Repair Actually Aims at New Air Base

While Western strategists continue to worry China may turn some remote Pacific island into a new military base, the US operates several large military facilities in the region, some just 400 miles from the Chinese coast.

A derelict airfield on a remote Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati could soon get an upgrade from the People’s Republic of China. The two nations re-established ties two years ago and have embarked on new cooperation projects, including infrastructure investment as well as trade and cultural exchanges.

“The government hasn’t shared the cost and other details other than it’s a feasibility study for the rehabilitation of the runway and bridge,” Lambourne told Reuters. “The opposition will be seeking more information from the government in due course.”

The airstrip was built in the 1940s by the US Navy. Previously, PanAm had envisioned using the island’s large, almost totally-enclosed lagoon as a stop-off point for flying boat service to New Zealand. The island itself has just two dozen inhabitants today and the airstrip has only been used sporadically since World War II.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a Canberra-based think tank funded in part by the Australian Department of Defense, fretted in a September 2020 article that Beijing was likely to reclaim seabed and expand island installations in Kiribati as well as fortify them, as it has done to some South China Sea islands. It accused China of “moving to…

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