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    China’s Growing Presence in Myanmar Evident through Military Upgrades and Coco Island Development

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    China is involved in expanding an airstrip, aircraft hangar and military modernisation on Myanmar’s Great Coco Islands, which are located near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The island has been of interest to China since the 1990s when it reportedly established an intelligence facility. Recent satellite images show signs of military modernisation, including a newly expanded 2,300-metre runway, a radar station, and two new hangars. Moreover, new images from March show evidence of land-clearing efforts on the southern part of the island, indicating the likelihood of more construction work.

    Chinese engineers and military personnel have been seen on the islands in recent years. Although the island is relatively small, at around 11 km in length, its location is strategically important as it is close to the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. It also lies in proximity to Indian navy and air force bases on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. India has been monitoring the developments closely and confronted Myanmar after intelligence showed that Beijing was providing assistance in building a surveillance post on the island.

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    Myanmar has grown increasingly dependent on Beijing after the February 2021 coup, where the military junta took over the reins of the nation. Myanmar’s military has sought closer ties with Beijing and has backed its claim to Taiwan and announced support for China’s “global security initiative”. The developments in the Coco Islands have emerged amid an increase in Chinese spy ships and surveyor ships in the Bay of Bengal and proposed radar in southern Sri Lanka.

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