The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

Amid height­ened ten­sions be­tween China and its Asian neigh­bors, China’s mil­i­tary is hold­ing naval ex­er­cises in the Bo­hai Sea — not far from Ja­pan.

The ex­er­cises are be­ing closely watched, as China an­nounced a sea-clo­sure area near the nu­clear sub­ma­rine base at Hu­lu­dao, where China builds its Type 094 bal­lis­tic-mis­sile sub­marines, called the Jin class by the Pen­tagon.

The ex­er­cises be­gan two weeks ago and con­cluded Nov. 23.

Based on the an­nounced clo­sure area, U.S. of­fi­cials said one pos­si­ble ac­tiv­ity could be a sec­ond JL-2 sub­ma­rine-launched bal­lis­tic-mis­sile test.

China last con­ducted a JL-2 test in the same area Aug. 21.

The Chi­nese mil­i­tary ex­er­cises are be­ing con­ducted not far from joint U.S.-Ja­pan mil­i­tary ex­er­cises that ended last week and in­volved some 47,000 per­son­nel near the Senkaku Is­lands, which are claimed by China near Ok­i­nawa. China calls the is­lands the Di­ay­outao.

China this week pres­sured lead­ers of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN), meet­ing in Ph­nom Penh, Cam­bo­dia, not to hold in­ter­na­tional dis­cus­sions on South China Sea dis­putes with China.

Bei­jing is op­pos­ing ASEAN’s ef­forts to reach a bind­ing agree­ment on a code of con­duct in the South China Sea, where China re­cently claimed up to 70 per­cent of the in­ter­na­tional wa­ters as its mar­itime ter­ri­tory.

Ben Rhodes, deputy White House na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, said the sea dis­pute should be set­tled peace­fully. The is­sue was to be raised in a meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Obama and out­go­ing Chi­nese Prime Min­is­ter Wen Ji­abao, Mr. Rhodes said.

He said the dis­putes such as those re­gard­ing the South China Sea “need to be dis­cussed in a mul­ti­lat­eral con­text so that we can reaf­firm the prin­ci­ples of mar­itime se­cu­rity that can guide the res­o­lu­tion to some­thing like the South China Sea.”

“The U.S. be­lieves that any so­lu­tion has to be con­sis­tent with in­ter­na­tional law, has to pre­serve the free flow of com­merce that is im­por­tant not just to the coun­tries in this re­gion, but to the world,” Mr. Rhodes told re­porters.

“The U.S. is not a claimant in the South China Sea, but we have sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est there, given its role in the global econ­omy.”

Bill Gertz can be reached at in­sid­e­ther­ing@wash­ing­ton­

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