China’s naval sur­veil­lance of U.S.

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Why would a Chi­nese sub­ma­rine shadow the USS Kitty Hawk and its bat­tle group only weeks be­fore Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials play host the com­man­der of the U.S. Navy’s Pa­cific Fleet? The in­ci­dent, re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Times, oc­curred at the end of Oc­to­ber near Ok­i­nawa. It’s un­usual both for Chi­nese sub­marines to fol­low U.S. ships and for the Chi­nese sub­marines to ven­ture far from Chi­nese shores, Bill Gertz re­ported. Adm. Gary Roug­head, com­man­der of the Pa­cific Fleet, was in China last week, and this event is likely to cast a shadow over his meet­ings with Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials.

The in­ci­dent fits dis­con­cert­ingly well into a larger frame­work. China’s in­tent to shift the bal­ance of power in the Pa­cific away from the United States is a re­cur­ring theme in the Pen­tagon’s an­nual re­ports on China’s mil­i­tary power. “The pace and scope of China’s mil­i­tary buildup al­ready place re­gional mil­i­tary bal­ances at risk,” the 2006 re­port states. The re­port also notes that “[c]ur­rent trends in China’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion could pro­vide China with a force ca­pa­ble of pros­e­cut­ing a range of mil­i­tary opera- tions in Asia — well be­yond Tai­wan — po­ten­tially pos­ing a cred­i­ble threat to mod­ern mil­i­taries op­er­at­ing in the re­gion,” re­fer­ring to the U.S. mil­i­tary. The dieselpow­ered Song-class sub­ma­rine that sur­faced five miles away from the USS Kitty Hawk on Oct. 26 lags con­sid­er­ably be­hind its Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts, but Wash­ing­ton should ex­pect China to con- tinue in­vest­ing heav­ily in mod­ern­iz­ing its mil­i­tary force.

China’s rhetor­i­cal com­mit­ment to a peace­ful rise has been un­der­mined by Bei­jing’s lack of trans­parency in all mat­ters mil­i­tary and by its re­fusal to re­cip­ro­cate U.S. ef­forts to build closer mil­i­tary ties. China has also con­sis­tently sidestepped op­por­tu­ni­ties to show it­self as the “re­spon­si­ble stake­holder” in the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem that U.S. of­fi­cials had hoped it would be, pre­fer­ring a mer­can­tilist approach of trad­ing loans, arms deals and diplo­matic shel­ter for oil and nat­u­ral re­sources in the Mid­dle East, Africa and South Amer­ica.

Whether a Chi­nese sub­ma­rine sur­fac­ing within tor­pedo range of a U.S. air­craft car­rier bat­tle group was in­tended to send a mes­sage to the United States is not clear. U.S. of­fi­cials should nev­er­the­less ex­am­ine the wor­ri­some episode with the Kitty Hawk both for what it is and for the larger trend it rep­re­sents — a grow­ing Chi­nese naval force ca­pa­ble of as­sert­ing a stronger pres­ence in the Pa­cific.

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