China ‘putting pieces in place’ says expert
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China has lined up Argentina as its “gateway” to Antarctica, according to recent independent intelligence reports and local media. Recent reports have claimed that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) aims to extend its influence into South America by establishing a port at Tierra del Fuego that could become a naval base. They also allege that China’s military has already made the arrangements with Gustavo Melella, the provincial governor.
Intelligence Online claimed that Xi Jinping has pushed for the “construction and control” of a new naval base in the city of Ushuaia.
The site states that Beijing has successfully pressed on the area, changing local politicians’ minds after they assuaged the public in September.
The proposed enclave would be accessible only to Chinese military personnel and control a vital passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Sources told the publication that Argentina-based Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official Shuiping Tu achieved a breakthrough with local officials.
Mr Tu, who represents HydroChina Corp and operates the state-owned company in South America, reportedly persuaded Mr Melella to embrace China.
Officials had previously asserted that investments made by the CCP in Argentina would not compromise the country’s sovereignty.
Like other countries operating in the area, China established a foothold after fronting investments.
These have enabled the CCP to build on their influence, placing them in a strategically significant position opposed by the US.
A naval base at Ushuaia would place China close to South America’s tip and within reach of Antarctica.
Argentina’s southern tip is only 680 miles (1100 km) from the Antarctic coast.
And the passage running between the two continents separates the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Intelligence Online reported that Governor Melella established a partnership with HydroChina Corp in early October, adding the links make the CCP a “partner of choice” for infrastructure projects like ports.
While Mr Melella has celebrated Argentina’s partnerships with China in the past, his office has rejected allegations that he is allowing Beijing to build a port in Ushuaia.
Alejandro Aguirre, Tierra del Fuego’s Secretary of Hydrocarbons, said the article reported by Infobae.com in Argentina had “no basis whatsoever”.
Mr Aguirre claimed the government is “working towards an understanding” with China, but around a “public knowledge” investment of $1.4 billion (£1.2 billion).
The investment is “in the hydrocarbon sector and its industrialisation”, not the “installation of a military base, or anything of the sort”, he added.
Mr Melella has rejected the allegations personally, stating: “The truth is that Tierra del Fuego has been growing with great support from the government.
“These days we see a lot of news about Tierra del Fuego. Some claim that they want to install a Chinese base or a Russian or American or extraterrestrial base.”
The governor has previously celebrated his connections to Chinese officials over social media, with a September post touting his province’s “strategic positioning”.
He appeared alongside Mr Shuiping in the post, which added: “We continue to strengthen cooperation ties for the development of energy projects in Tierra del Fuego”.
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