US-South Korean Exercises “at Beijing’s throat”

In a reply to a journalist’s question, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦刚) told a press conference today that the Chinese side had expressed serious concerns to the parties concerned, regarding a US-South Korean naval exercise in the Yellow Sea.

Our position is consistent and clear. We firmly oppose foreign countries coming to the Yellow Sea and other seas close to China, using ships and planes to engage in activities that affect China’s security interests and hope that each party maintains calmness and restraint, and won’t do things that would aggravate the tense regional situation.
中方已就此向有关方面表明严重关切。我们的立场是一贯的、明确的。我们坚决反对外国军用舰机到黄海及其他中国近海从事影响中国安全利益的活动,并希望有关各方保持冷静克制,不做加剧地区局势紧张的事。

The exercise in question is declared to be mainly an anti-submarine drill. The Korea Times on June 2 quoted a defense ministry official in Seoul as saying that

“After a multinational investigation pointed to North Korean involvement in the ship sinking, both governments agreed to show their firm deterrent against threats from the North.” […]
The U.S. 7th Fleet will dispatch the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, as well as nuclear-powered submarines, Aegis-equipped warships and amphibious assault landing ships, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Named after the first president of the United States, George Washington is the sixth ship in the Nimitz class. Commissioned in July 1992, she is best known for her huge size ― 233 meters in length and 78 meters in width.
The 100,000-ton aircraft carrier based in the Yokosuka naval base in Japan can accommodate about 6,250 crew members and carry some 90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
The South Korean Navy plans to mobilize 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers, 1,800-ton Type-214 attack submarines and F-15K fighter jets in the drill, said the official.
The exercise will include naval bombardment, dropping depth charges and checks of communications systems between the allied forces, he said.

The naval exercise was scheduled for June this year at the time, but was later postponed, reportedly by South Korea to ensure US attendance. On June 28, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters that he still didn’t “have a date for you. The details are still being worked out”. Speculation of yesterday was that

the U.S. and China will hold secret talks to save face over the Cheonan case, which has spent some time on the table at the UNSC because China resists any attempts to put the blame on North Korea or describe the sinking as an “attack” in any official statement.
The Obama administration values the alliance with South Korea but does not want to heighten tension with Beijing either.
“You’ll see a joint South Korea-U.S. drill in the West Sea sooner or later,” a diplomatic source in Washington said. “But the two countries are still discussing in detail when and on what scale it will be staged.”

Chosun Ilbo reports that

China has asked the South Korean government through a diplomatic channel to refrain from a join exercise with the U.S. in the West Sea this month. The anti-submarine drill is planned as a response to North Korea’s torpedo attack on the Navy corvette Cheonan.
A government official said the country will not consider canceling or changing the joint exercise plan. “A military exercise in our territorial waters is a matter of our own sovereignty,” he said. A diplomatic source said Beijing asked Seoul to refrain from the exercise for fear that it “might destabilize the Korean Peninsula.”

Southern Daily republished a Phoenix (凤凰网) report online on Tuesday, saying that the naval exercise was meant to deter North Korea and to awe China, making them bow to pressure without the means of war.*)

The exercise attracted the interest of many Chinese military affairs enthusiasts (军事迷) as the American nuclear aircraft carrier would come close to the Beijing/Tianjin area:

The aircraft carrier’s combat radius is said to be 600 kilometers. From the Yellow Sea, it can cover North China and the Liaoning and Shandong peninsula. This is a great threat.
据说,美国航母的作战半径是600公里,在黄海完全可以覆盖中国华北和辽东半岛,威胁极大。

(Other Chinese sources suggest that the George Washington‘s detection and attack range was about 1,000 kilometers.)

By conducting exercises near China’s coast, Washington wanted to test China’s resolve and, without a strong reaction from China, could station an aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea, probably at South Korea’s Jeju Island which, similar to Japan’s Yokosuka, could be a factor in a long-term strategy of containing China. Southern Daily/Phoenix also quotes a Japanese paper (行政调查新闻) as referring to the Yellow Sea as Beijing’s throat (北京的喉咙).

However, Southern Daily/Phonix writes that the exercise still posed no great threat, but was rather an American protest, reflecting its complicated state of mind (心情复杂). There was no direct threat, as America was aware of the Chinese military’s resolve and ability to deal with any American intrusion into China’s coastal waters. (美军此举对中国所造成的最大威胁,并不是直接的军事威胁。因为美方完全清楚中方的态度——中国军队有足够的决心、能力和手段来应对进入到沿海、构成直接军事威胁的大型航母编队。)

America wanted to increase the pressure on North Korea openly, and on China in a more veiled way, erroneously believing that China was the only country that could influence North Korea.

From Obama’s statements during the G20 summit in Canada, one coud see that he

was impatient and blamed China for not having, in accordance with his wishes, condemned North Korea for the Cheonan incident and for not having exerted pressure on North Korea. While America demands Chinese support, it uses a rude method – the military exercises – to keep China down.

The Southern Daily/Phoenix article then points out statements by the PLA’s deputy chief of staff Ma Xiaotian (马晓天) who said that Sino-American military relations could be overcome their current difficulties if America respected China’s core interests.

While the planned US-South Korean exercises posed no immediate threat to China, they were still a threat to regional stability, as they could easily trigger confrontation, clashes, and even war. This wasn’t conducive either for China, nor for the entirety of Northeastern Asia’s regional security and stability.

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Notes

*) The article lends a phrase from Sun Zi’s Art of War (孫子兵法) here:
Southern Daily:
以韩美军演的方式来达到不战而屈人之兵的效果
The Art of War:
是故百戰百勝,非善之善者也;不戰而屈人之兵,善之善者也。
Therefore one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful.
(Wikipedia of July 8, 2010)

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Related
The unreciprocating Dear Leader, May 8, 2010

10 Responses to “US-South Korean Exercises “at Beijing’s throat””

  1. A war game within very obvious shooting range of China’s capital. It will not happen.

    Like

  2. Good stuff, JR! Thanks especially for the Phoenix breakdown.

    Like

  3. It will not happen.
    It would surprise me if it happened. But much of the Fenghuang article reads like if it expects just that.

    Good stuff, JR!
    Still not good enough 😦

    Like

  4. I envy for being such prolific China blogger!

    Like

  5. Well… I wasn’t serious about feeling demoralized by the Missouri School of Journalism study. If I wanted to compete with traditional media, I’d need to join quite a group of bloggers, and what would be the use of that? I’m not sure if the Huffington Post is a blog or something else, but they look like if they can cover a range of topics similar to traditional media.

    This beautiful blog is just using a niche, and can only make sense with a comparatively narrow range of topics. If blogs want to be better than the traditional media, only the sum of their efforts can amount to such a goal. But then, I’m wondering why blogs should do better than traditional media in the first place.

    Bloggers will probably decide individually if they want their blog to be a replacement for their traditional letters to the editors (of traditional media), or if it should be a newsbreaker, buying from newsagencies included.
    Personally, I don’t hope that bloggers will become better than traditional media. If they both improved, and complemented each other, that would look best to me.

    Either way, thanks for the friendly feedback! 🙂

    Like

  6. I have never seen such strong reactions from North Korea to outsiders’ condemnations over the sinking of Cheonan. Many skeptics argued over the genuine cause of the sinking of Cheonan, I found one very convincing: Cheonan has been grounded.In fact, two South Korean officials that offer similar suggestions have been charged last month for undermining the South Korean Navy’s reputation. The best solution offered is to set up an independent team to investigate the incident and include all relevant parties such as North Korea (whose request to join the previous investigation has been rejected), China and Russia.

    Like

  7. The comment above is mainly two extracts copied and pasted from your own post, Feng. I won’t delete it as it is, after all, topic-related, but I prefer real comments.

    Links to commenters’ own posts concerning the issue would be fine, of course, as they add real information, as they help to find such posts even months later.

    Like

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