Navy of­fi­cial to visit China amid ten­sion

Pa­cific Com­mand head pur­su­ing bet­ter un­der­stand­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing and CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton

In the wake of a United States war­ship il­le­gally en­ter­ing wa­ters close to a Chi­nese is­land in the South China Sea on Tues­day, the com­man­der of the US Pa­cific Com­mand, Harry Har­ris, will visit Bei­jing in early Novem­ber, sources told China Daily on Wed­nes­day.

Bei­jing con­tin­ued to con­demn the US ac­tion on the sec­ond day, as For­eign Min­istry spokesman Lu Kang called the in­ci­dent “a se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal provo­ca­tion against China”.

Ex­perts said Har­ris’ visit will be a good chance to boost mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and make Wash­ing­ton bet­ter in­formed about China’s res­o­lu­tion and pol­icy prepa­ra­tions for man­ag­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the South China Sea.

Ear­lier on Tues­day, the guided-mis­sile de­stroyer Lassen en­tered wa­ters near Zhubi Reef with­out the per­mis­sion of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, lead­ing to China’s fierce protests, in­clud­ing sum­mon­ing US Am­bas­sador to China Max Bau­cus.

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Ja­pan’s pub­lic broad­caster NHK quoted an un­named of­fi­cial with the US Depart­ment of De­fense as say­ing that Har­ris will visit China from Nov 2 to 5 and will em­bark on di­a­logues with Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials.

The re­port quoted the of­fi­cial as say­ing that the two sides are ex­pected to dis­cuss bi­lat­eral mil­i­tary ex­changes and that “boost­ing ex­changes could build trust be­tween the navies of the two coun­tries” and help “avoid un­in­tended clashes”.

Both coun­tries have tried not to let the in­ci­dent spill over into the over­all bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, es­pe­cially the mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion which has warmed up in the past few years.

The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Navy hospi­tal ship Peace Ark will pay a port call at San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia, early next week, meet­ing their US coun­ter­parts and city lead­ers. It is part of the Mis­sion Har­mony con­ducted an­nu­ally by the Peace Ark and this year’s trip in­cludes Aus­tralia, French af­fil­i­ated Poly­ne­sia, Mex­ico, Bar­ba­dos, Gre­nada and Peru and other coun­tries.

Mean­while, the PLA Navy fleet, which had com­pleted their anti-piracy mis­sion in the Gulf of Aden, is also go­ing to pay a port call at Jack­sonville, Florida. The fleet, which con­sists of mis­sile de­stroyer Ji­nan, guid­ed­mis­sile frigate Yiyang and sup­ply ship Qian­daohu, is also on a global tour with stops at Su­dan, Egypt, Den­mark, Swe­den, Cuba and Aus­tralia.

Teng Jian­qun, a se­nior re­search fel­low on US stud­ies at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said Har­ris’ visit “must have been a part of

China’s South China Sea poli­cies won’t be changed be­cause of the in­ci­dent on Tues­day.”

the an­nual plan of bi­lat­eral mil­i­tary ex­changes”.

“China’s South China Sea poli­cies won’t be changed be­cause of the in­ci­dent on Tues­day,” Teng said.

Zhang Jun­she, a se­nior re­searcher at the PLA Naval Mil­i­tary Stud­ies Re­search In­sti­tute, said that “in­creased high- level con­tacts be­tween the Chi­nese and US mil­i­taries is a good thing any­way”.

“Es­pe­cially, this could help the US side bet­ter per­ceive and un­der­stand China’s ac­tions in the South China Sea to cham­pion le­gal rights and in­ter­ests, have fur­ther recog­ni­tion of China’s is­land con­struc­tions and avoid mis­un­der­stand­ing or mis­cal­cu­la­tion,” Zhang said.

At a reg­u­lar news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day, Lu Kang, the For­eign Min­istry spokesman, said the US be­hav­ior “vi­o­lated in­ter­na­tional laws in­clud­ing the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea as well as do­mes­tic laws of China”.

Writ­ing in the Huff­in­g­ton Post on Wed­nes­day, Ami­tai Etzioni, pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, de­scribed the US as­ser­tions of free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion as “dan­ger­ous.”

Etzioni said China has re­cently set­tled ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes us­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions that have led to set­tle­ments that neu­tral par­ties con­sider to be fair. “Re­sort­ing in­stead to mil­i­tary means is likely to in­crease ten­sions be­tween the US and China and could lead to mil­i­tary clashes,” he said.

Etzioni crit­i­cized the US for ap­point­ing it­self as a global judge based on uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion. He ar­gued that the US al­lies in the Asian re­gion are un­likely to be re­as­sured by such ma­neu­vers if the US con­tin­ues to seem to al­low it­self to be pushed around in the Mid­dle East by Rus­sia, Iran and ter­ror­ist groups.

“If the United States seeks to shore up its cred­i­bil­ity, it would be bet­ter to show that it is able to ‘de­grade and de­stroy ISIS,’ as it com­mit­ted it­self to do­ing more than a year ago,” he wrote.

Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangyunbi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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