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Chinese Regime Eyes Texas Port Facilities
The Chinese are eyeing facilities in Texas to further their economic invasion of the United States.
Negotiations are under way for communist Beijing to utilize as a “logistics hub” the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, which was closed in 1995 during the Clinton administration’s base reduction program.
If the deal is consummated the Chinese will also gain access to two major Texas ports at Corpus Christi and Houston on the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico, an 11,000-foot-long airstrip, which is part of the Kelly base facilities, rail links with railcar switching facilities and links with five interstate highways. The Chinese are keenly interested in the deal because the San Antonio base will help facilitate its trade with Mexico.
San Antonio will give China access to a highway corridor along I-35, linking San Antonio to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, which is just across the border from Laredo in west Texas.
Nuevo Laredo is a major staging ground for Mexican drug cartels, which have fostered an atmosphere of lawlessness in the city. Almost daily people, including police, are shot in the streets. In addition, frequent clashes occur between drug smugglers and U.S. Border Patrol and state and local police on the U.S. side of the border in Laredo.
There have also been reports that Chinese military units have been operating with Mexican army troops, who assist the drug smugglers and have made incursions into the United States.
“San Antonio is a strategic site for commerce between China and the United States and for the exportation of Chinese products to Mexico and Latin America,” Zhou Ming, general director of the Chinese State Agency of Promotions and Chinese Investments, said after a Chinese delegation visited San Antonio last year, according to a report in the Spanish-language newspaper Rumbo, which reports on activities in Mexico and U.S. border states.
Like most Chinese industrial, investment and commerce kingpins, Ming has ties to the People’s Liberation Army, which controls most industry in China with much of the profits going to build up the Chinese military.
Considerable slave labor is used, making it impossible for U.S. workers to compete.
A year ago, San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger and other municipal officials traveled to China to promote the former air base facilities, now renamed the San Antonio Port Authority.
The mayor’s office is working with the Port Authority, the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio and the San Antonio based Omega Group International, which maintains offices in Austin, Texas, San Francisco, Mexico City and Beijing and Qingdao, China.
According to Rumbo, Omega International sponsored visits by Chinese officials last year to San Antonio. J.J. Saulino, press secretary to Hardberger, told AFP that the mayor is interested in the project and traveled to Guangdong province in China to promote it.
Jorge Canavati, vice president of the San Antonio Port Authority, claimed the Rumbo article was “not accurate” and abrasively brushed off questions about the effort to get the Chinese into the former U.S. air base facilities.
The former air base, often referred to as a “dry port” or an “inland port,” because it is not a coastal facility or located on a navigable waterway, “has no limits for the products, from toys to heavy equipment [from China],” Vivian Lee, president of the Omega Group, was quoted by Rumbo as saying.
AFP was told by Rogello Garcia, a spokesman for the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, that a Chinese delegation was in San Antonio last spring to further work out details of the project.
Kelly Air Force Base was opened in 1916 as a training facility. Nearby Lackland Air Force Base was a spin-off from Kelly. The Texas Air National Guard 149th Fighter Wing still utilizes the facility, along with the Air Force Reserve 433rd Airlift Wing.
A spokesperson with the Port Authority told AFP that the base has been used to repair and maintain C-5A Galaxy transport planes, which are the largest aircraft in the Air Force. The base has an 11,000-foot runway to accommodate the C-5A, which the military shares with the Port Authority.
In addition to the airstrip, the Port Authority has a 1,200-acre yard operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad is also linked to the inland port.
A retired Air Force intelligence officer told AFP that taking over the San Antonio base would likely streamline Chinese exports to the United States and would give them access to ports in Houston and Corpus Christi on the Gulf coast.
The Chinese already control the Panama Canal, through
the Hutchison-Whampoa Company, and maintain a major airfield and port facility
at Freeport, Bahamas, where Hutchison-Whampoa has a contract through the
Bush administration to provide security for container ships bound for U.S. ports on the East Coast.
Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco has
taken over port facilities and warehousing space at the California ports
of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Long Beach. This is one of the reasons
cited for China’s interest in the San Antonio inland port, as it has
extensive space available for constructing warehouse buildings. According
to Port Authority sources, a 108,800-square-foot warehouse facility has
already been built at the former base at a cost of $5 million and a slightly
smaller 102,400-squarefoot building has also been built.