The new Chinese ZBL-09 Snow Leopard infantry fighting vehicle was developed by NORINCO is now in Papua New Guinea. It is a new family of 8×8 armored vehicles and IFV platforms.
This vehicle was heavily influenced by both Western and Russian armored personnel carriers. It was first publicly revealed in 2009.
The ZBL-09 is being proposed for the export customers as the VN-1. It has been exported to African countries, but among all other countries, the most interesting name appeared on the SIPRI arms trade registry is Papua New Guinea.
PNG government bought a small number of ZBL-09 IFV which is not a significant event, but evidently China can and will supply arms to Australia’s backyard where Canberra always considers South Pacific nations as ally and took it for granted.
Chinese meddling in Timor-Leste is well documented and China is also building Timor Army’s Head Quarter and supplied two Type – 62 Shanghai Class offshore patrol vessels to it’s Navy. Timor-Leste plans to procure two type 056 corvettes from China.
China has already poured money into Timor-Leste, including building its energy grid, government offices and two new commercial ports — one of which is linked to the proposed $12 billion Greater Sunrise liquefied natural gas development, leading to speculation Chinese state-owned banks may fund the entire project.
“It’s not a surprise that China is heavily involved in” Timor-Leste, said Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra, in an interview on Wednesday. “Weaker states like Timor-Leste run the risk of getting addicted to Chinese debt and when they can’t pay it back, Beijing could take control of key assets, such as ports that could then be used by its military. The U.S. and Australia are rightly nervous about that prospect.”
Australia offered a package includes construction of new facilities at Hera Naval Base near Dili on the country’s north coast — including a land-backed wharf — and an offer to fund planning for a broader upgrade of the current facilities. It will also provide a vessel to help train crew for Timor-Leste’s two new Guardian Class Patrol Boats, to be gifted by Australia in 2023.
Timor-Leste is less than 500 miles from Australia’s northern port of Darwin, where about 2,500 U.S. Marines are based.
Beijing’s strategy is leading to concern its endgame could be to operate military bases in the region.
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