America criticizes perceived attempt by China to build military base in El Salvador

With China’s growing influence, both politically and economically, there is a growing concern that China may be trying to overtake the US as the world’s leading power. With its growing economic influence, it is pulling nations from India to Eastern Europe into its ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiative, and working its way into other trade organizations. It is already worked its way into the BRICS, and the EAEU, and has organized the SCO, among others.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompe, has pointed out to Congress the growing threat that China poses to the US, and that is a threat that is described as both medium and long term in its scope. Recently, the US Ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes, pointed out the possibility of China’s working its way into America’s own back yard, into El Salvador itself. Manes expressed that the possibility exists that one of El Salvador’s ports, La Union, could be turned into a military base. If this happened, China would gain its first military base in the Western hemisphere and set in motion events that could lead to a full scale threat of the presence and military protection of the region, and potentially destabilize America’s own security. Mint Press News Reports

El Salvador has suddenly become a focal point of growing “concern” to the U.S. government about China’s presence in Central America and alleged attempts to establish a military presence in the region.

Concerns over Chinese activities in the region were stirred up when U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes warned of the possibility that the country’s commercial shipping port, La Union, could be transformed into a “military base.”

The accusation comes amid a raging trade war launched by Washington against Beijing, as well as efforts by El Salvador’s left-wing FMLN party to counterbalance its relations with the United States amid ongoing controversy over U.S. authorities’ abuse of migrant families and children from Central America.

Earlier this month, Manes alleged that China’s investments and business ties in the Caribbean and Central America, which remain modest, had become a concern for the U.S. Department of State owing to the potential that they could mask a creeping “militarization of the region.”

Manes said:

They [the Chinese] are trying to find weak spots in the region, where they can make these kinds of arrangements … we are concerned that it is not only investment in a port, but then they want to do something with their military and they want to expand Chinese influence in the region. It is a strategic matter and we all need to keep our eyes open to what is happening.”

The ruling former Marxist guerilla party FMLN is currently looking into granting concessions for the Port of La Union to an international operator. According to government media, China is the country most likely to win the concession, although the bidding process is still in a very early stage.

The port lies on the Pacific coast in the Gulf of Fonseca, where the maritime borders of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all converge. The southeast of the country, where the port is located, may soon be designated a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) if a draft bill presented by the ruling party early this month manages to pass.

The U.S. Department of Defense had warned in February of a creeping Chinese presence in Central America, pointing to Chinese construction projects and port terminal management contracts along the Panama Canal. Yet even the Pentagon didn’t raise the same accusations as Ambassador Manes, whose State Department is now overseen by Secretary Mike Pompeo, who has hawkish positions on China.

Last year, then-CIA Director Pompeo hyped the Trump administration’s position that China poses a threat to the U.S. — claiming in an interview that, among China, Iran, and Russia, it is China that “has the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to America over the medium and long term.”

In a 2016 book published by the Council on Foreign Relations, authors Robert D. Blackwell and Jennifer M. Harris detailed the alleged Chinese threat to U.S. hegemony in the region, unfavorably comparing Washington’s coercive power to Beijing’s ability to assist industrial development and offer condition-free aid to increase its geopolitical leverage:

The United States has no coherent policies to deal with these Chinese geoeconomic actions — many of which are aimed squarely at America’s allies and friends … It gives China free rein in vulnerable African and Latin American nations.”

Central America has long been “vulnerable,” unstable, and stricken with maldevelopment and poverty, stemming from a history of U.S. imperialist exploitation and political meddling in the region, ranging from its historic invasions of nations to its propping-up of banana republic-style governments and, more recently, its backing of death squads, military dictatorships, rigged elections, coups and anti-government riots across the region.

Granted, China has its hands in a lot of pies, and it’s refusal to back down over the Spratly’s and other islands in the region, potentially threatening freedom of navigation in the region, China demonstrates that it has its own interests and that it will protect them, even militarily if need be. The question on this issue is whether China has real interests in El Salvador to protect, or to establish a military base to enforce?

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