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Monitoring China’s Naval Assertiveness

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff who visited Delhi this week for talks with Indian officials, is reported to have told Indian media persons on July 23,2010, that China’s aggressive posturing over territorial claims in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions was a matter of concern that the US shared with India.

2. He has been quoted by rediff.com as saying as follows: “China seems to be asserting itself more and more with respect to the kinds of territorial claims. They seem to be taking a much more aggressive approach to the near-sea areas recently….There is growing concern over it. In my perspective, we (the US) must work with India in this regard.In my recent interactions with its leadership, India too has expressed similar concerns.” He gave the example of recent public statements by China about the US Navy operating in the Yellow Sea. Noting that the US navy was in the international waters, Mullen said despite such remarks by China, the US would continue to operate in the international waters there.

3.According to rediff.com, Admiral Mullen said further that the US believed China was shifting focus from land-centric to air and maritime capabilities. “Fairly recently I have gone from being curious about where China is headed to being concerned about it. One of the characteristics that does not exist as far as China appears militarily is transparency. In fact, there is opaqueness to it that we continue to really scratch our heads about from a military standpoint. We have virtually no relationship with the Chinese military. If we have such relationship, we can agree on and disagree on, and also we can learn from each other.”

4. He pointed out that the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions were critical to economic and trade activities and that stability in these two regions was absolutely vital.

5. One was gratified by his observations because one was intrigued by the relative silence of the US media over the increasing naval assertiveness of China in the South and East China Seas and in the Yellow Sea and by its repeated demand since the beginning of this year for equality of status with the US Navy in the Western Pacific. In the past, the Chinese used to project themselves as a rising economic power, but were coy on their military power—-particularly naval power. Now, for the last few months, they don’t fight shy of projecting themselves as a rising naval power.

6. Since the crisis broke out in March following the North Korean sinking of a South Korean naval vessel and particularly since the US and South Korea announced a programme for a series of joint naval exercises to deter Norh Korea from any more such adventurist actions,Chinese media and strategic experts, including some from the Navy and the faculty of some Chinese training institutions, including their National Defence University, have been talking and writing increasingly of what they project as a looming naval conflict between a hegemonist naval power (US) and a rising naval power (China).

7. They strongly opposed the US-South Korea naval exercises covering the Yellow Sea and warned of the dangers of incidents if the US and South Korea went ahead with their exercises, which would involve the participation of a nuclear-powered aircraft-carrier of the US Navy. Even after the US and South Korea indicated that their naval exercise starting on July 25—- which would be the first in the series—- would not cover the Yellow Sea, the Chinese have kept up their campaign. Their Foreign Office claims to have issued five warnings to the US not to send its ships into the Yellow Sea.

8. The following points emerge clearly from the recent Chinese campaign:

Firstly, the rise of the Chinese naval power is unstoppable. Secondly, instead of trying to counter it, the US should accommodate itself with it by accepting the new reality in the Western Pacific as a result of the rise of the Chinese Navy. Thirdly, China is keen to improve its military-military relations with the US, but this will be possible only if the US accepts this reality and pays attention to the Chinese sensitivities on maritime issues and Chinese interests in the Yellow Sea. Chinese expectations are no longer confined to US understanding Chinese sensitivities on arms sales to Taiwan. Beijing now has an expanded list of core sensitivities.

9. The Chinese are not yet talking—at least openly—- of their aspirations as an Indian Ocean power, but it is only a question of time before they start doing so and challenging any Indian primacy in the Indian Ocean Region. In their long-term plans to do so, they will first try to undermine the Indian naval influence in the island countries such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives. Seychelles and Mauritius and use repeated invitations from the Pakistani political leadership and Armed Forces to make greater use of the naval facilities in Pakistan for their ships in the Indian Ocean. Annexed is an article on co-operation between the Chinese and the Pakistani Navies carried by the “China Daily” on July 22,2010. There is a need for a joint monitoring of Chinese naval activities by India and the US.

10. This article may please be read in continuation of my following articles on the subject available at the web site of the Chennai Centre For China Studies at https://www.c3sindia.org/ (1).“Chinese Sovereign Waters”, “Waters of China’s Interests”,”Psychological Territorial Seas” of July 14,2010

(2). De-Escalation Moves in Yellow Sea of June 29,2010

(3). Hu Proposes, PLA Disposes of June 28,2010

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

ANNEXURE

Article carried by the “China Daily” on July 22,2010

Pakistan navy vows to expand co-op with China By Sun Yuqing (chinadaily.com.cn)

Pakistan’s navy is very satisfied with the performance of the F-22P frigate it bought from China and hopes to further the cooperation with the nation, said Admiral Noman Bashir, Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff.

Two of the four F-22P frigates it ordered are already in service in Pakistan Navy, with the third one scheduled to be commissioned on September 15 this year. It’s also expected that all four ships will be in service by 2013.

“We are very happy with the performance, and some technology is as good as in Western countries,” said Noman Bashir, who visited China four times last year.

Pakistan also hopes to buy bigger ships with more firepower from China, such as 4,000 ton class frigates.

Pakistan has proposed to develop strategic maritime cooperation with China in both military and commercial sects, such as in fishery, economic development zones, and cargo, he said.

“The friendship between China and Pakistan is greater than the Himalayas and deeper than the Ocean. We already made progress in air force and other areas, now we should further and expand the cooperation in Navy, a broadly-based relation.”

Pakistan’s strategic geographical location in the Arabian Sea and its long coastline mean its possible contribution to the missions of China’s navy, particular under the context of energy need from the Persian Gulf, said Pakistan officials.

Pakistan also has rich experiences in countering illegal activities at sea in order to maintain maritime security, four ships participated in anti-piracy operations, and there has been no act of maritime terrorism in its region in the recent past.

“We can provide facilities, ports, logistics, maintenance among other things (to Chinese navy),” said a Pakistan navy official.

Pakistan hopes to buy more ships from China, UK and France according to its development plan

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