A US navy commander interviewed in a Japanese newspaper took a few shots at the increasingly (and needlessly) aggressive posture of the Chinese:
Repeated Chinese navy helicopter flights close to Japan's Self-Defense Force ships in the East China Sea and the Western Pacific in April were neither professional nor responsible, says the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Patrick Walsh. [blogged on a few weeks ago - MT]In an interview with a Japanese paper, Walsh blasts the Chinese Navy. If you were Japanese and seeking reassurance, you just might feel you got some.
Walsh expressed concern about China's increasingly aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
He pointed out that in 2009 alone, China detained 433 Vietnamese fishermen who were working in waters where the territorial claims of both countries overlap.
He also said that China recently started describing the South China Sea as its "core interest." It is a term that China uses to explain its positions vis-a-vis Taiwan and Tibet.
"This is an issue that has us very, very concerned because, on principle, the interference with freedom of navigation in international water is a core interest for those who use the global commons," Walsh said.
"At the same time, this economic 'carotid artery' that runs through the South China Sea ... they are willing to put at risk over rocks, reefs and disputed claims."
While the United States has been trying to maintain a mature relationship with China in the economic sphere, he said, "the military representation of the People's Republic of China is one where we just lag any kind of mature relationship, and it's just fraught with the potential for misunderstanding."
In reaction to China's disturbing behavior in the South China Sea, several littoral states such as Vietnam and Singapore are now purchasing submarines "as a way of protecting sovereign rights," Walsh said.
The US navy has been a consistent supporter of bettering its relationship with China. Is this a sea change? Or just one man's opinion?
Walsh mentioned later in the piece that he has been visiting countries in the waters around China and they are all interested in closer cooperation with the US.
Of note in this is Walsh's statement that China is now using the term "core interest" to refer to its expansion into the South China Sea, the same one it uses to define its attempt to annex Taiwan and its annexation of Tibet. Those of you wont to say that Taiwan is "the last piece of the puzzle" have been comprehensively proven wrong by China's desire for Arunachal Pradesh, the Senkakus, and now this. China just made "the puzzle" bigger by thousands of islands.
Observe also the progressive upgrading of claims. Just as the claim to Taiwan has fostered a claim to the Senkaku Islands, and the annexation of Tibet has led to the claim to Arunachal Pradesh, so what started as claims to some islands in the South China Sea has just become a "core interest." It's not going to stop until there's an armed confrontation somewhere.
UPDATE: See Thomas' excellent comment below.
Meanwhile, back within the Beltway, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein (D-China) claimed that US arms sales to Taiwan were hurting ties with China. She also said:
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein told Gates that Chinese leaders had offered to reposition at least some of their military forces opposite Taiwan. An aide said she was referring to an offer that was made in the past and was no longer on the table.[UPDATE: "redeploy the missiles" appears to be confusion based on a misquote]Feinstein's husband Richard Blum is a major investor in China. Not by coincidence, Feinstein has argued for closer connections to China. One of Blum's old business partners is Peter Kwok, who is involved with the current sale of the Nanshan unit in Taiwan. Have fun with searches on Google and see what else those names uncover.
Yes, that's right. The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee is married to a man who has extensive business interests in China. Brrrr.....
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