BEIJING — China’s defense ministry defended military cooperation with Tajikistan Thursday following a report of a sizable Chinese troop presence at a base in the Central Asian state.
Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told reporters at a monthly briefing that cooperation between the two was "in line with" international law and related resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council.
"This cooperation benefits the two countries, their two militaries and regional peace and stability," Ren said.
The dynamic is a stark contrast to both sides' feisty rhetoric over their ongoing dispute in the South China Sea.
However, Ren said there was no Chinese presence in the adjacent Wakhan Corridor belonging to Afghanistan, in line with earlier denials of any plans to deploy troops to the war-torn nation with which it shares a narrow border.
Despite the denials of Chinese military activity in the area, unconfirmed reports have shown what appear to be Chinese military vehicles operating in the corridor, which lies in the shadow of the Hindu Kush mountains with Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south.
China had apparently sought to keep its Tajikistan base manned by members of the paramilitary People's Armed Police a secret. However, the Washington Post in February reported on the sizeable Chinese military complex first-hand, although it remains unclear what the troops' mission is and Ren provided no details.
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan has begun launching precision airstrikes in Northern Afghanistan in an effort to degrade the Taliban’s revenue streams, training facilities and support networks.
The area borders China’s restive Xinjiang region, where Beijing has deployed a massive security presence following violent attacks by Muslim separatists in past years.