Τρίτη, 10 Μαρτίου 2009

U.S.-China spat raises tension

U.S.-China spat raises tension
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States accused China on Tuesday of adopting a more aggressive military stance as a naval confrontation sparked anger in Beijing and raised tensions ahead of a U.S. visit by China's foreign minister.The incident involving five Chinese ships and a U.S. Navy survey vessel threatened to complicate political and economic ties between the two powers as they wrestle with a joint response to the global economic crisis.National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told Congress the Chinese "seem to be in a more military, aggressive" posture, but it was still unclear whether Beijing was using its growing power "for good or pushing people around."The United States accused China of harassing the U.S. ship, the USNS Impeccable, in international waters off Hainan island, a launch-point of Beijing's military expansion and site of a major submarine base.China countered that the United States distorted the truth and violated international and Chinese laws."The U.S. claims are gravely in contravention of the facts and confuse black and white and they are totally unacceptable to China," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in Beijing.The exchange came as Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Washington to lay the groundwork for a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama at the G20 summit in London next month.
Yang has meetings planned on Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and will visit the White House.Blair called the incident in the South China Sea the most serious since a Chinese military plane collided with a U.S. electronic surveillance plane off Hainan in April 2001, during the early months of President George W. Bush's presidency.A Chinese pilot was killed, and the U.S. plane made an emergency landing on the island. The U.S. crew was released 10 days later, and the plane was later returned.
EARLY MESSAGE?
The United States said the Chinese actions appeared deliberate, and some analysts said China might be sending a message early in the Obama administration about its rights to keep foreign navies from conducting surveillance near its economic zone.The dispute comes as the two countries face a complex web of financial problems and the world's largest economies try to form a coordinated response to the growing global economic crisis.A senior U.S. defense official on Tuesday said the United States would continue to operate in international waters, but he stopped short of saying any U.S. ocean surveillance vessels would return to the area where Sunday's incident occurred.The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, told Congress that China was strengthening its ability to conduct military operations along its periphery and acquiring sophisticated air defenses from Russia.
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On March 8, 2009, the Impeccable was harassed 75 miles south of Hainan, China, while conducting surveys in international waters as recognized by the United States. However, China claims this area in the South China Sea as a part of its Exclusive Economic Zone. The Impeccable was unarmed and was shadowed by five Chinese ships, including a Bureau of Maritime Fisheries Patrol Vessel, a State Oceanographic Administration patrol vessel, a Chinese Navy intelligence collection ship, and two small Chinese-flagged trawlers, which aggressively maneuvered dangerously close to the ship, with two closing in to 50 feet, waving Chinese flags, and ordering the Impeccable from the area. The civilian crew sprayed water at one of the nearest Chinese ships, but the Chinese sailors, despite the force of the water, stripped down to their underwear, and the vessel closed to within 25 feet of the American ocean surveillance ship. Shortly after the incident, the Impeccable radioed the Chinese crews, informing them of its intentions to leave the area, and requesting a safe pass to travel. When trying to leave the area, however, two of the Chinese ships stopped directly in front of the fleeing ship, forcing it to do an emergency stop to avoid a collision] The crew aboard one of the Chinese ships also used a grappling hook to try to snag Impeccable's towed sonar array
This incident was the latest in a string of incidents involving the Impeccable and Chinese vessels. On Thursday, March 5, 2009, a Chinese frigate approached Impeccable and crossed its bow at a range of approximately 100 yards. This was followed less than two hours later by a Chinese Y-12 aircraft conducting 11 fly-bys of Impeccable at an altitude of 600 feet and a range from 100-300 feet. The frigate then crossed Impeccable's bow again, this time at a range of approximately 400-500 yards without rendering courtesy or notice of her intentions.[On Saturday, March 7, as reported a Chinese intelligence collection ship challenged Impeccable over bridge-to-bridge radio, calling her operations illegal and directing Impeccable to leave the area or "suffer the consequences."The United States has lodged formal protests. Under international law, the U.S. military can conduct activities "in waters beyond the territorial sea of another state without prior notification or consent" including in an exclusive economic zone of another country, said a Pentagon spokesman. "The unprofessional maneuvers by Chinese vessels violated the requirement under international law to operate with due regard for the rights and safety of other lawful users of the ocean."[Chinese Foreign Ministry says the USNS Impeccable conducted activities in China's special economic zone in the South China Sea, violating international and Chinese law, and the Pentagon's complaint that five Chinese vessels had harassed the USNS Impeccable were "totally inaccurate". The territorial claim by China is not recognized by any other country in the region. "China's done this before, they've harassed boats that they feel have intruded into an area they claim," said Wendell Minnick of Jane's Defence Weekly.The Impeccable's surveillance mission is focused on undersea warfare. The Chinese government may be particularly interested in this, due to the fact that they operate an estimated 62 submarines, most of which are diesel electric powered. This incident comes just after the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This has been compared to the Hainan Island incident, which took place shortly after the inauguration of President George W. Bush. In April of 2001, two Chinese J-8 fighter aircraft attempted to intercept a American EP-3E ARIES II, causing a midair collision that resulted in the death of one Chinese pilot and capture and detention of the 24 person crew of the American aircraft for ten days, until their release on April 11, 2001.

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