Some 97km of rocks in Thai waters stand between Beijing and dominance over the Mekong, a mighty river that feeds millions as it threads south from the Tibetan plateau through five countries before emptying into the South China Sea.
China has long wanted to dredge the riverbed in northern Thailand to open passage for massive cargo ships – and potentially military vessels. Ultimately a link could be carved from Yunnan province thousands of kilometres south through the Mekong countries – Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
There, the river emerges into the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and the centrepiece of Beijing’s trade and security strategy for its Asian neighbourhood.
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