Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a welcome ceremony in Beijing. Photo: AFP/Jason Lee

Beijing has insisted for years that the US$1 trillion global transportation infrastructure push known as the Belt and Road Initiative is purely economic in nature and is not part of an effort to expand military endeavors.

There may now be evidence that military cooperation has been explicitly outlined as part of the BRI, according to a report from the New York Times on Thursday.

Maria Abi-Habib wrote that the publication has reviewed a confidential plan to expand Pakistan’s building of Chinese military equipment, including advanced fighter jets.

“All those military projects were designated as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” the article claims.

The confidential proposal was drafted by the Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials early this year and calls for the creation of a special economic zone under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key link in the BRI. The zone would be the location for manufacturing of a new generation of fighter jets.

The project would represent the first time navigation systems, radar systems, and onboard weapons would be jointly assembled by the two countries inside of Pakistan.

Pakistani officials confirmed the proposal, which would also expand existing production of Chinese JF-17 fighter jets.

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