Close encounters

By Zhao Jinglun
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 9, 2014
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 Troublemaker [By Luo Jie/China Daily]

The Pentagon, in its report on China's military, recounted in a one-sided way the naval incident involving the USS COWPENS. Let me quote what it had to say in full:

"On December 5, 2013, a PLA Naval vessel and a U.S. Naval vessel operating in the South China Sea came into close proximity. At the time of the incident, USS COWPENS (CG 63) was operating approximately 32 nautical miles southeast of Hainan Island. In that location, the U.S. Navy vessel was conducting lawful military activities beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State, consistent with customary international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. Two PLA naval vessels approached USS COWPENS. During this interaction, one of the PLA Navy vessels altered course and crossed directly in front of the bow of USS COWPENS. This maneuver by the PLA Navy vessel forced the USS COWPENS to come to full stop to avoid collision, while the PLA Navy vessel passed less than 100 yards ahead."

The Pentagon accused the PLA Navy vessel of action "inconsistent with internationally recognized rules concerning professional maritime behavior."

What it neglected to say is that the incident took place in an area China had formally declared to be where the Chinese carrier group would carry out scientific research, tests and military drills. That group consisted of the aircraft carrier Liaoning, two destroyers the Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and two guided missile frigates the Yantai and the Weifang.

The USS COWPENS, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, was closely monitoring the drill and intruded into the declared drill area. It was asked to leave but declined, claiming it was in international waters.

The fact is that USS COWPENS had entered within a 45 kilometer inner defense layer of the Chinese carrier group. And it was tailing after and harassing the Liaoning formation. It was clearly USS COWPENS that brazenly violated internationally recognized rule concerning professional maritime behavior.

Obama proudly proclaimed in his West Point speech: "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being." He denied that America was exceptional because of its ability to flout international norms and the rule of law. But America is "exceptional" precisely because of its ability to flout international laws and norms of behavior. Contemporary history is full of examples of such behavior. The invasion of Iraq is a prime example.

It is ironic that the Pentagon cited the Law of the Sea Convention against China. The U.S. Senate has so far refused to ratify the Convention because it does not want to be bound by it. It wants absolute freedom to act, typical of a hegemon.

It happened that there was a similar case, another case of "the villain making the accusation first" as the Chinese saying goes. The Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera called the incident "a close encounter that is outright over the top." He was referring to an incident in which Chinese SU-27 fighters came as close as 50 meters to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane on May 24, 2014 near the disputed islets and within 30 meters of a Japanese YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft.

Again, the Japanese Defense Minister did not explain why the spy planes were in China's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIC) scouting and interfering with the joint China-Russia naval drills, when "no fly" and "no sail" notices in relevant waters and airspace had been issued according to international practices.

As antagonism heightens and tension rises, this kind of incidents will happen again and again with the United States and Japan carrying out the provocations.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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