Op-Ed Contributors

Navy drill cause for concern

By Li Jie (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-12 07:53
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Negotiation, rather than flexing military muscle, is the best way to resolve disputes between key global powers

A joint navy drill by the US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the Yellow Sea has aggravated concern among East Asian nations, especially China, over regional peace and stability.

The participation of the 97,000-ton US aircraft carrier George Washington in the exercise has attracted widespread media coverage and its involvement is a move that is hostile to China.

The spate of recent activity by US aircraft carriers is fresh reminder of a series of unfriendly moves by its navy in the waters of the Yellow Sea since the 1990s.

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In 1994, a fleet led by the US Kitty Hawk intruded into the waters along China's maritime boundary line on a so-called cruise mission. The US formation of naval warships trespassed into China's territorial waters and went even farther to closely trail a Chinese nuclear submarine, which had just finished a long-distance cruise mission.

This ill-advised move plunged the two countries into confrontation mode for a time.

Recently, the US' "Victorious" surveillance vessel conducted an unauthorized mission in China's exclusive economic zone and even used water cannons to expel two Chinese fishing boats in the vicinity.

The current US-ROK drill, which was repeatedly put off since June, is by no means a purely military move aimed at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) for its alleged torpedoing of the ROK naval vessel Cheonan.

The US navy had for a long time avoided any provocative military moves in the Yellow Sea although Washington possessed several military bases in the ROK and Japan

In fact, many of its naval fleets, including the George Washington-led Seventh Fleet, are deployed in Japan's Yokosuka port.

The Cheonan incident, however, has provided a rare opportunity and excuse for the US naval force stationed in the ROK and Japan to actively intervene in regional matters.

A joint drill with the ROK in the key waters off its Asian military bases will help the US realize multiple strategic goals in the Asia-Pacific region.

First, the drill will help the US maintain high-pressure against what it calls a restive DPRK regime. It is also believed to be an explicit indication of the US stance that the world's sole superpower would stand firmly behind the ROK and Japan in case of a military conflict between Pyongyang and Washington's two traditional Asian allies.

In addition, a well-deliberated military exercise in the Yellow Sea will also help the US collect geographic and military information about some Asian countries bordering the vast waters.

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