The Pentagon has admitted it is concerned about growing Chinese influence in Mauritius amid warnings that UK plans to return a chain of islands to the Indian Ocean nation could jeopardize the safety of vital military base on Diego Garcia.
Representative Mike Waltz, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee on military preparedness, wrote to the Defense Department in December asking for assurances that China would not be able to encroach on the US base in any deal.
That could have a “catastrophic” effect on US military outreach, he said at the time.
In its response, the Pentagon said it shared 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, Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said he shared the Republican’s concerns about growing Chinese ties to Mauritius.
That raises concerns over the status of the US base on Diego Garcia as the UK 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 the East African coastal countries that form the westernmost border of the Indian Ocean,” Colin Kahl, Secretary of State for Defense, wrote in a statement. shared a letter with DailyMail. com.
The United States recognizes British sovereignty over British Indian Ocean Territory and considers the sovereignty dispute a bilateral matter between the UK and Mauritius. We support the commitment between the UK and Mauritius to resolve the issue.”
The Chagos Islands are little more than dots in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The largest is Diego Garcia, home to a US military base from which fighter jets can reach maritime bottlenecks, vital sea routes and even potential Chinese bases anywhere from Djibouti to Pakistan.
Transfer plans 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 locals to make way for a base on Diego Garcia, which is leased to the US.
Since then, residents have been campaigning for the right of return.
Three years ago, the International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations, 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 location in the center of the Indian Ocean gives it a critical strategic location and is the site of a US naval support facility, hosting nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, and hosting special operations forces.
Republican Representative Mike Waltz has taken up the issue as he tries to defend Diego Garcia against creeping Chinese influence. “The Defense Ministry shares your concerns about the PRC’s interest in deepening ties with Mauritius,” Colin Kahl, Deputy Defense Secretary, wrote in a letter shared with DailyMail.com
Negotiations began last year to transfer the islands to Mauritius. And the UK has said any deal will protect the status of the US base.
But critics have warned there would be nothing to stop Mauritius from allowing China – which has poured $1 billion in investment into the country in recent years – to build facilities on one of its other nearby islands.
Waltz said: “I hope that the Biden administration will continue to push for security measures to protect the US military presence in Diego-Garcia and will coordinate with our British allies to ensure that Mauritius is not adversely affected by the presence of the Chinese Communist Party in the Indian Ocean.
The issue has also been raised by British MPs in London.
In his response, Kahl said the US was working with the UK to secure the base.
“The specific arrangement regarding the facilities at Diego Garcia is based on 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 islanders of Chagos have fought for years to return home. Most now live in Mauritius or the UK, but won a victory in 2019 when the United Nations Supreme Court ruled that the British occupation of the islands was illegal
US Strategic Command took the unusual step in November to reveal that the ballistic missile submarine USS West Virginia had stopped in October as it made a nuclear ‘deterrent’ patrol in the Indian Ocean
He also offered to update Waltz and his staff on secret briefings.
Waltz previously said he had two demands for Diego Garcia.
“First, that the basic agreements there are rock solid, and second, that we won’t see the Chinese Communist Party invade and militarize an island in the Chagos as it did in the South China Sea.”
He said the Chinese playbook was evident 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 to the Solomon Islands, for example, where they’ve now made a pact for the Chinese military police and maybe to be able to deny any American base or overflight,” he said.
“And that is the fear in these negotiations with the Chagos Islands and Mauritius in the United Kingdom.”
For his part, the British Foreign Secretary has said that the base will be protected 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 British and US military base on Diego Garcia, which plays a critical role in regional and global security,” said James Cleverly when the negotiations started. .
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
In this Google photo, fighter jets are lined up at the base on Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia is a militarized atoll located 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 eager to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean at the height of the Cold War.
Its position – approximately 2,200 miles east of Tanzania’s African coast and 1,200 miles west of India’s southern tip – gives its heavy bombers access to a range of important naval 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 “unsinkable aircraft carrier” has been vital during the Iranian Revolution (when rescue missions used it as a way station), the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Operation Desert Fox in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
It serves as a logistical and support base for naval vessels, fighter jets and special forces.
Port facilities for airlines were completed in 1985.
And four years later, an airfield was built that allowed B52 Stratofortress bombers and aerial refueling planes to arrive.
The atoll also houses the United States Marine Pre-positioning Squadron Two, consisting of seven ships loaded with tanks, armored personnel carriers, ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and even a mobile field hospital for rapid deployment to war zones.