U.S. Navy, China dis­pute nav­i­ga­ble bound­aries

Chi­nese jets and a fri­gate were dis­patched “to drive away” the USS Chafee

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam Cole wcole@starad­ver­tiser.com

The U.S. mil­i­tary’s love-hate re­la­tion­ship with China was re­cently on dis­play with the Pearl Har­bor de­stroyer USS Chafee at the cen­ter of it all. Between Oct. 2 and 6, the Chafee and its crew of nearly 350 were in Hong Kong, where sailors met with stu­dents at the Yan Chai Hospi­tal Wing Lung Kin­der­garten and Child Care Cen­tre dur­ing a good­will com­mu­nity re­la­tions ef­fort. Less than a week later, on Tues­day, China sent a fri­gate and fighter jets “to drive away” the guided mis­sile de­stroyer af­ter it sailed near Chi­nese-claimed islands in the South China Sea. It was the lat­est “free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion” demon­stra­tion over dis­puted ter­ri­tory in the south at the same time the United States is hop­ing to gain greater Chi­nese co­op­er­a­tion in curb­ing North Korea’s nu­clear am­bi­tions. U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand made no an­nounce­ment of the Chafee op­er­a­tion. A U.S. of­fi­cial said Chafee “chal­lenged ex­ces­sive mar­itime claims” near the Para­cel Islands, sail­ing within 16 nau­ti­cal miles and con­duct­ing rou­tine op­er­a­tions, but not within 12 nau­ti­cal miles, the ac­cepted ter­ri­to­rial limit.

The Paracels are claimed by China, Tai­wan and Viet­nam. The United States is wor­ried about the

$3.37 tril­lion in an­nual trade — a fig­ure de­rived by the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies China Power project — that passes an­nu­ally through the South China Sea. The United States wants to pre­vent any re­stric­tions that China might seek to im­pose on trade in the re­gion. Much of the South China Sea is claimed by China. The United States sees it as in­ter­na­tional wa­ters and airspace. China’s state-run Global Times said the fri­gate Huang­shan, two J-11B fight­ers and one he­li­copter were dis­patched to “warn and drive away” the Chafee. China For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chunying said Wed­nes­day that the Xisha Islands, its name for the Paracels, “are an in­her­ent part of the Chi­nese ter­ri­tory.” “The rel­e­vant be­hav­ior of the U.S. war­ship has vi­o­lated the Chi­nese law and rel­e­vant in­ter­na­tional law, se­verely un­der­mined China’s sovereignty and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests, (and) put in jeop­ardy the life safety of the front­line per­son­nel from both sides,” Hua said at a press briefing.

She added that China “will con­tinue to take firm mea­sures to safe­guard China’s ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty.” De­spite the ob­jec­tions, Carl Baker, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Pa­cific Fo­rum Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Honolulu, said the United States is try­ing to make the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion op­er­a­tions in the South China Sea “a re­cur­ring thing that we’re not go­ing to give up on” — cre­at­ing a new “modus vivendi,” or ac­cepted prac­tice, for deal­ing with the dis­pute.

“We’re go­ing to con­tinue to do that, be­cause we’re go­ing to con­tinue to as­sert that right, and so, China con­tin­ues

We see it as our obli­ga­tion to con­tinue to chal­lenge China where they are — in our view — in the wrong in terms of in­ter­na­tional law . ... ”

to re­spond to it,” Baker said. “We see it as part of a nor­mal op­er­a­tion that we un­der­stand that they are go­ing to re­act to, and they un­der­stand that we’re go­ing to con­tinue to do it.”

On Aug. 10, the Navy sailed the Ja­pan-based de­stroyer USS John S. Mc­Cain within 12 nau­ti­cal miles of Mis­chief Reef in the Spratly Islands — lead­ing to a warn­ing from two Chi­nese war­ships to leave the area. The South China Sea chal­lenges come as the United States and China en­gage mil­i­tar­ily, some­times more pos­i­tively, in other are­nas. In May, the Navy said China had been in­vited back to the 2018 Rim of the Pa­cific mar­itime ex­er­cises,

which are held ev­ery two years and will be held again in Hawaii next sum­mer. “All 26 na­tions that par­tic­i­pated in RIMPAC 2016 have been in­vited to re­turn for RIMPAC 2018,” Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a spokesman for the Navy’s 3rd Fleet, said in May. “We see it as our obli­ga­tion to con­tinue to chal­lenge China where they are — in our view — in the wrong in terms of in­ter­na­tional law” in the South China Sea, but that is “one di­men­sion of a big­ger re­la­tion­ship that we re­al­ize we have to main­tain and that we want to pre­serve with China,” Baker said.

The Chafee de­ployed from Pearl Har­bor on June 13 on an in­de­pen­dent de­ploy­ment

to South Amer­ica and the western Pa­cific. In July the ship par­tic­i­pated in the multi­na­tional mar­itime ex­er­cise UNI­TAS 2017 in Peru, test-launch­ing an SM-2 mis­sile and tak­ing part in a “sink ex­er­cise” in­volv­ing a de­com­mis­sioned Peru­vian ves­sel. Chafee sailors also con­ducted com­mu­nity outreach at a boy’s home in Val­paraiso, Chile.

At sea, a Chafee MH-60R he­li­copter spot­ted a sus­pi­cious small boat with three pas­sen­gers and two out­board en­gines that be­gan jet­ti­son­ing 37 bales of co­caine when the he­li­copter ap­proached, the Navy said. The Chafee re­cov­ered 1,823 pounds of co­caine.

Carl Baker Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Pa­cific Fo­rum Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Honolulu


Sailors as­signed to the USS Chafee pre­pared to dock in Hong Kong ear­lier this month. Chafee is part of the U.S. 3rd Fleet and U.S. Naval Sur­face Forces, cur­rently de­ployed to an area un­der the U.S. 7th Fleet.


Cryp­to­logic Tech­ni­cian 2nd Class Daleel McCord, a crew mem­ber on the Pearl Har­bor de­stroyer USS Chafee, met a stu­dent from the Yan Chai Hospi­tal Wing Lung Kin­der­garten and Child Care Cen­tre in Hong Kong dur­ing a good­will event Oct. 4.

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