BEIJING - The US decision to send an aircraft carrier to take part in a drill in the Yellow Sea will be a fresh test of the Sino-US relationship, which has recently showed signs of recovering from a low point, Beijing-based experts said.
They were reacting to an announcement from the Pentagon on Thursday that said the US aircraft carrier USS George Washington will attend the naval exercises.
US Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said the nuclear-powered vessel will be sent to waters off the Korean Peninsula to participate in exercises with the Republic of Korea (ROK), according to Xinhua News Agency.
"The USS George Washington will indeed exercise in the Yellow Sea," Morrell said.
However, Morrell didn't give a specific timetable.
"I don't think we have determined a date yet," he said.
He stressed that the drill should not be seen as an affront to China, but a warning to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
"It's not meant to send a message to the Chinese," he said.
It is meant to send a message to Pyongyang about its behavior, he said.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense did not comment on Friday.
Experts, however, said the US move could spark protests from China.
"Carrying on a military drill near a country is just like having a knife beside a person. China will surely be concerned," said Niu Xinchun, an expert on US studies from China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
"The move will have a negative influence on Sino-US ties, which seemed to have warmed up recently after high-level exchanges between the two countries," Niu said, referring to a visit paid by US Deputy National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers earlier this week.
But another expert said the US move seemed to be mainly about dealing with domestic problems.
"The move aims to ease the pressure on the Obama administration ahead of the mid-term election in November," said Tao Wenzhao, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"To garner support, the Washington decided to send the aircraft carrier to the US-ROK joint military drill," Tao said.
Following the sinking of a ROK warship in March, the US and the ROK announced a series of joint military exercises in the waters off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. Seoul and Washington claimed Pyongyang torpedoed the ship, killing 46 sailors, but Pyongyang has denied the accusation.
In his meeting with President Hu Jintao late last month, DPRK leader Kim Jong-il said he hoped for an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks that are aimed at easing tension on the Korean Peninsula.