De-escalation moves in Yellow sea

( To be read in continuation of my earlier article titled " Hu Proposes, PLA Disposes")

by B.Raman

(June 29, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) There are apparent moves made by the US as well as China to de-escalate tensions due to Chinese objections to the prposed joint US-South Korea naval exercise in the Yellow Sea in which the nuclear-powered US aircraft-carrier USS George Washington was reportedly to participate.

The "China Daily" has inter alia reported as follows on June 29,2010: "Large-scale, anti-submarine drills were set for earlier this month in the ROK, but were postponed to give the US more time for preparations. They had been rescheduled for this week, but were delayed again and may take place in July. "If they insist on holding the drills under the current circumstances, it would only further escalate tensions in the region," said Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. "The US and ROK should continue to postpone or cancel the military drills," Zhai said. "

The " Global Times", published by the "People's Daily" group of the Communist Party of China, has reported as follows on the morning of June 29: "The planned US-South Korean military drill was postponed until July because the schedule remains unfinished, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Monday ( June 28)."

With the postponement of the proposed US-South Korea naval exercise, there has been an apparent attempt by Chinese circles also to play down the earlier interpretation of the live-ammunition exercise of the People's Liberation Army's Navy in the East China Sea as in response to the proposed US-South Korea naval exercise. Some Chinese commentators are now claiming that the dates for the Chinese drill were fixed sometime ago and that the Chinese drill was not connected with the US-South Korea exercise.However, while the US and South Korea have postponed their joint exercise, the PLA Navy is going ahead with its exercise as scheduled from June 30. It will continue till July 5.

While the "China Daily" coninues to display on its web site the hard-hitting article against the proposed US-South Korea joint exercise, the "Global Times" has come out with a little more balanced article on June 29 written by one Huang Jingjing. It says inter alia as follows:

"A public announcement saying that the Chinese navy will kick-off a six-day exercise tomorrow in the East China Sea that will feature live ammunition has stirred speculation about the timing of the drill.

"A fleet under the PLA will take part in the drill from tomorrow to July 5 in waters off Zhengjiang's east coast in the East China Sea, according to a notice published Sunday (June 27) on the local Wenzhou Evening News at the request of the fleet.

"The drill will be held from midnight to 6 pm every day. All irrelevant ships are prohibited from entering the region during the drill, the notice said.

"The notice gave no more details. However, many military observers and experts interpreted the drill in different ways.

"Some see it as a response to the joint military drill by the US and South Korea, which was originally set to begin Monday (June 28).
The drill reportedly includes US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington and was supposed to be held in waters off the west coast of South Korea, or the Yellow Sea, the waterway leading to China.

"It is reported that if the aircraft carrier enters the Yellow Sea, China's territorial sea, the entire North China region and the Liaodong Peninsula would be within its range, which was deemed a provocation to China, according to Hong Kong-based Ming Pao daily.

"The location of the Chinese drill is set to be held in the East China Sea, which would make the foreign navies entering the Yellow Sea uneasy," Song Zhongping, a military analysis for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, said on his blog on people. Monday (June 28).
He said the East China Sea is the only way into the Yellow Sea. He said it would be easy to form a favorable war situation for the Chinese navy to "shut the dogs up and beat them."

"However, the planned US-South Korean military drill was postponed until July because the schedule remains unfinished, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Monday.

"Some other military experts said the Chinese drill is just a routine exercise.

"The drill was planned early. It's a coincidence that it falls near the joint drill by South Korea and the US," Li Jie, a naval expert with the Beijing Naval Research Center, told the Global Times. "It's not only an exercise to improve defense ability, but a military action to coordinate with foreign policy."

"Song Xiaojun, another expert, did not think that China is holding the drill in response to the US-South Korea. China already fixed the date for its drill while the other drill's date has not been set, Song said."

At the same time, Chinese circles have expressed displeasure over the reported remarks of President Barack Obama at Toronto that
while he understood President Hu Jintao's need to show restraint over his neighbor and ally, "there's a difference between restraint and willful blindness to consistent problems."

In an editorial on the subject, the "Global Times" of June 29 has stated as follows:

"US President Barack Obama groundlessly blamed China for "blindness" to North Korea's "belligerent behavior" in an alleged attack on the South Korean navel vessel the Cheonan while speaking at the G20 summit Monday (June 28).

"His words on such an important occasion, based on ignorance of China's consistent and difficult efforts in pushing for peace on the peninsula, have come as a shock to China and the world at large.

"As a close neighbor of North Korea, China and its people have immediate and vital stakes in peace and stability on the peninsula. China's worries over the North Korean nuclear issue are by no means less than those of the US.

"The US President should have taken these into consideration before making irresponsible and flippant remarks about China's role in the region.

"The facts speak for themselves, and very clearly so: China has made tremendous efforts in preventing the situation on the Korean Peninsula from getting out of control, including in the aftermath of the Cheonan incident.

"Without China's involvement, there would not have been the Six-Party Talks, and the outbreak of yet another Korean War might well have been a possibility.

"It is thus not China that is turning a blind eye to what North Korea has done and has not done.

"Instead, it is the leaders of countries such as the US that are turning a blind eye on purpose to China's efforts.

"The US President made the remarks only because China has not acted in accordance with the requests made by some countries. But those are unreasonable and irrational requests."

The controversy between the US and China on North Korea continues, but in politically measured tones to underline that the Chinese political leadership commands policy-making.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )