The United States has said it expects to hold previously announced military exercises with the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the Yellow Sea off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula in July.
The joint drill was announced just after the sinking of an ROK warship, Cheonan, on March 26 that an international investigation has blamed on a Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) torpedo. The DPRK has denied any involvement.
Media reports say the US is considering sending an aircraft carrier to join the exercises, which originally was scheduled for this month. Irrespective of the intentions of the US and the ROK, the joint drill will add to the prevailing tension in the region.
China is not likely to consider the presence of a US aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea as just "deterrence" to the DPRK.
For one, the planned drill will take place not far from China's coast. In fact, it won't be very far from Beijing and Tianjin. Second, the US has planned the drill at a time when Sino-American military ties have suffered a severe setback because of Washington's insistence on selling arms to Taiwan.
The US and Japan, and some of China's other neighbors, voiced concern when some Chinese navy ships transited through the "first island chain" during a military exercise conducted by its East Sea Fleet in April.
The US and 14 other countries are taking part in the month-long biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise in and around the islands of Hawaii. And US naval experts say the exercise is aimed at "taking precautions against newly rising military powers on the Asia-Pacific region", referring mainly to China.
The above two examples show that the West, especially the US, thinks China's rising military strength is bound to upset the strategic balance in the region. But will China's efforts to modernize its navy really upset regional stability?
China is a country with long sea and land borders. Its mainland has an 18,000-km coastline apart from those of its more than 6,900 islands. But China still lags behind in maritime strategies. Its navy is not fully modernized. The "Sea Ban" policy of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) rulers ended what till the 14th century was China's exciting navigation history.
Because of China's weak maritime defense most of the aggressors have launched their attacks from the sea since the 19th century. In contrast, leading Western powers have a continuous history of a strong naval force. Many of the Western countries, especially Britain and the US, became prosperous because they had strong naval forces.
China's economic development has increased its demand for energy. So, China has to develop and modernize its maritime fleet not only to defend its territory, but also to ensure unimpeded supply of fuel and to explore the seas for oil.