China Winning a Victory at Sea

China is flexing its muscles at sea in Northeast Asia, taking advantage of perceived US weakness. So far, the US response has reinforced the Chinese view.

Tensions have been rising in the region. The issue is not just North Korea's nuclear weapons program and long-range missile tests. In May, an international investigation found that a North Korean torpedo had sunk a South Korean corvette with the loss of 46 lives in March. The United States and the Republic of Korea have referred the incident to the United Nations, but have done little else. Pyongyang's protectors in Beijing have done more. China has stepped out from behind the curtain as neutral host of the suspended Six Party Talks on nuclear proliferation to bring to bear its military, diplomatic, and propaganda resources to defend North Korea on the ship sinking. And under the Chinese onslaught, Washington it falling back in disarray.

China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been conducting live-fire exercises just north of Taiwan and northwest of Okinawa. Indeed, on July 4, a Chinese destroyer and frigate passed between the southwestern Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako on their way into the Pacific Ocean. Though passage through the strait was legal under international law, it still alarmed Tokyo as Beijing had not given any notification of the movement of its warships so close to U.S. and Japanese bases.

The Chinese air and naval maneuvers were announced June 24, and were to run from June 30 to July 5. The area of operations was the East China Sea, the entry point to the Yellow Sea where the United States and South Korea were expected to hold a joint exercise starting June 28. Instead, the Pentagon announced, after the Chinese revealed their plans, that any allied "show of force" in the Yellow Sea against North Korea would not take place until July, if then.


Beijing has been protesting any US-ROK exercises, especially if they involve the task force built around the aircraft carrier George Washington, which is based in Japan. A July 6 editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times had the headline "US has to pay for provoking China." It claimed, "Anxiety on the Chinese side will be huge if a US aircraft carrier enters the sea connecting the Korean Peninsula and China." The editorial went on,

Just look at the thousands of messages Chinese readers have left on the Global Times Chinese-language website. More than 92 percent of them agree that the joint naval drill will be a huge threat to China. Many voiced their concerns, in lines such as: It's a matter of the dignity of a big country; China has to grow even faster in order to avoid the bully and such shame; Don't trust the United States any more.

The next day, another Global Times editorial called on the increasingly anti-Western sentiments being whipped up by the communist regime to generate economic pressure on Washington to cancel the naval exercise.

The Chinese people should act in a way that compels US government's attention. It is the Chinese consumers and workers who contribute to the hard currency to buy US treasury bonds, and support struggling US companies during the financial crisis. Washington may not have the reason or guts to ignore their demand.

Public anger or protests should not be considered a burden by the Chinese government, but an additional force on the bargaining table. If China does not try to explore various means to press Washington, it will become more difficult to deal with future incidents.

The PLAN units that conducted drills in the East China Sea would be no match for the George Washington Strike Group, which includes two cruisers, seven destroyers, and an undisclosed number of submarines in addition to the nuclear carrier. But Beijing is less concerned with American firepower than with the willpower of the Obama administration. And against this soft target, Beijing seems to be winning. The White House has been downplaying the issue as Chinese rhetoric has ramped up.
 
A July 6 report in the state-owned People's Daily cited South Korean sources as saying the joint naval exercises would not be conducted until after there is action at the U.N. Security Council on the corvette sinking -- action which Beijing's veto could block. If it is true that the U.S. is waiting on the UNSC before it will sail its Navy into the international waters off Korea, then Washington is truly demonstrating a "show of weakness" that will do nothing to deter future aggressive actions by either North Korea or China.
China is flexing its muscles at sea in Northeast Asia, taking advantage of perceived US weakness. So far, the US response has reinforced the Chinese view.

Tensions have been rising in the region. The issue is not just North Korea's nuclear weapons program and long-range missile tests. In May, an international investigation found that a North Korean torpedo had sunk a South Korean corvette with the loss of 46 lives in March. The United States and the Republic of Korea have referred the incident to the United Nations, but have done little else. Pyongyang's protectors in Beijing have done more. China has stepped out from behind the curtain as neutral host of the suspended Six Party Talks on nuclear proliferation to bring to bear its military, diplomatic, and propaganda resources to defend North Korea on the ship sinking. And under the Chinese onslaught, Washington it falling back in disarray.

China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been conducting live-fire exercises just north of Taiwan and northwest of Okinawa. Indeed, on July 4, a Chinese destroyer and frigate passed between the southwestern Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako on their way into the Pacific Ocean. Though passage through the strait was legal under international law, it still alarmed Tokyo as Beijing had not given any notification of the movement of its warships so close to U.S. and Japanese bases.

The Chinese air and naval maneuvers were announced June 24, and were to run from June 30 to July 5. The area of operations was the East China Sea, the entry point to the Yellow Sea where the United States and South Korea were expected to hold a joint exercise starting June 28. Instead, the Pentagon announced, after the Chinese revealed their plans, that any allied "show of force" in the Yellow Sea against North Korea would not take place until July, if then.


Beijing has been protesting any US-ROK exercises, especially if they involve the task force built around the aircraft carrier George Washington, which is based in Japan. A July 6 editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times had the headline "US has to pay for provoking China." It claimed, "Anxiety on the Chinese side will be huge if a US aircraft carrier enters the sea connecting the Korean Peninsula and China." The editorial went on,

Just look at the thousands of messages Chinese readers have left on the Global Times Chinese-language website. More than 92 percent of them agree that the joint naval drill will be a huge threat to China. Many voiced their concerns, in lines such as: It's a matter of the dignity of a big country; China has to grow even faster in order to avoid the bully and such shame; Don't trust the United States any more.

The next day, another Global Times editorial called on the increasingly anti-Western sentiments being whipped up by the communist regime to generate economic pressure on Washington to cancel the naval exercise.

The Chinese people should act in a way that compels US government's attention. It is the Chinese consumers and workers who contribute to the hard currency to buy US treasury bonds, and support struggling US companies during the financial crisis. Washington may not have the reason or guts to ignore their demand.

Public anger or protests should not be considered a burden by the Chinese government, but an additional force on the bargaining table. If China does not try to explore various means to press Washington, it will become more difficult to deal with future incidents.

The PLAN units that conducted drills in the East China Sea would be no match for the George Washington Strike Group, which includes two cruisers, seven destroyers, and an undisclosed number of submarines in addition to the nuclear carrier. But Beijing is less concerned with American firepower than with the willpower of the Obama administration. And against this soft target, Beijing seems to be winning. The White House has been downplaying the issue as Chinese rhetoric has ramped up.
 
A July 6 report in the state-owned People's Daily cited South Korean sources as saying the joint naval exercises would not be conducted until after there is action at the U.N. Security Council on the corvette sinking -- action which Beijing's veto could block. If it is true that the U.S. is waiting on the UNSC before it will sail its Navy into the international waters off Korea, then Washington is truly demonstrating a "show of weakness" that will do nothing to deter future aggressive actions by either North Korea or China.