China intends to refurbish abandoned airfield in Kiribati to monitor U.S. Pacific fleet

Chinese officials have revealed that China is interested in renovating the abandoned airport in the country. Strategic scholar Zhang Rongming pointed out that Jigoku is only about a four-hour flight from Hawaii, and if China successfully renovates the airport there, it could become the best place for Chinese aircraft to monitor the U.S. Pacific fleet.

According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) on May 29, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense think tank, the National Defense Security Research Institute (NDRI), released the latest edition of its biweekly defense security report.

Zhang Rongming said that Tessie Lambourne, a member of the opposition party in Kiribati, revealed recently that China is planning to refurbish the abandoned airport and bridge facilities in Kanton Island, Kyrgyzstan. The airport, which has a runway nearly 2,000 meters long, was used by the U.S. military during World War II.

Zhang Rongming pointed out that China had wanted to acquire important sea and air hubs in the South Pacific, such as Guadalcanal Island in the Solomons. This attempt to refurbish the abandoned airfield in Jiribas is China’s second opportunity to seek air development in the Pacific islands. In addition, China is targeting the construction of airport runways this time, showing that China is not satisfied with just acquiring airports or ports, but is moving forward with both sea and air.

Zhang Rongming said that since Jiribas is only about a four-hour flight from Hawaii, if China successfully builds an airport there, it could become the best place for Chinese aircraft to monitor the U.S. Pacific fleet. If tensions rise in the first island chain, China’s airport in the country has the advantage of location, from which aircraft can monitor the movements of the U.S. fleet that is rushing to support the first island chain countries.

Zhang Rongming pointed out that, considering the sensitivity of military aircraft, deployment in Jiribas may lead to local opposition, and too close to the United States may not be conducive to defense and other circumstances, China may deploy drones in the place to carry out surveillance missions.

Zhang Rongming said, due to the limited range of drones, can not carry out the whole monitoring, so with the satellite to carry out the initial stage of air surveillance, sea surveillance may be left to underwater unmanned vehicles to carry out.

Kiribati established diplomatic relations with the Republic of China in 2003, broke them off in September 2019 and resumed diplomatic relations with China instead.