Yellow Sea, Pressure on their Chests

Under the headline “Compelling China to become anti-American? The Yellow Sea Provocations are a Tragedy for America’s Strategy” (逼中国变成反美大国?黄海挑衅是美战略悲剧), Hong Kong’s Beijing-leaning Ta Kung Pao (大公报) wrote on July 9:

The “Yellow Sea crisis” affects the will of the people. Washington must understand, what does America actually want to achieve here? If America doesn’t cherish its strategic influence in the East Asian region, but wants to compel China to turn into a great anti-American power, America’s thirty-year old strategy will return to its starting point. If that really happens, it will be a tragedy for America’s global strategy.

South Korea and America being about to conduct military exercises in the Yellow Sea pressures the chests of countless Chinese people, day after day, like a big stone. Can American aircraft carriers coming to the Yellow Sea for exercises turn into a North-East Asian diplomatic crisis? All kinds of speculation have focused on this concern. South Korea tries to use the Yellow Sea to pressure China. Although America hasn’t responded to the Yellow Sea issue yet, the Chinese military has expressed its “resolute opposition”. China may not be able to immediately discourage the George Washington from entering the Yellow Sea for exercises, but this time, China must clearly express its opposition, as the Yellow Sea is an area of core interest to China (中国核心利益区). China still needs to make it clear to America and South Korea that there is always a price to pay for violating China’s interests.

Ta Kung Pao quotes a “new argument” (新说法) used by South Korea, that the exercises are conducted after the UN Security Council had taken measures against North Korea, and that Seoul emphasizes that the exercises won’t be cancelled because of Chinese pressure.

This actually amounts to South Korea putting pressure on China – to pressure China to condemn North Korea, and hinting that if China doesn’t support sanctions against North Korea, maybe an aircraft carrier will come. The American side has so far sealed its lips concerning military exercises in the Yellow Sea, but South Korean media said that three US nuclear submarines which had recently appeared in important naval areas in Asia “are a reaction to China’s large-scale live-ammunition exercise in the East China Sea”. All the George Washington‘s officers and crew, just having celebrated independence day, are still in Yokosuka awaiting orders, and the Japanese people are worried that the next departure of this aircraft carrier will bring North-East Asia unexpected risks and unknowns.

Ta Kung Pao sees three deliberations in America’s approach – putting pressure on North Korea with the air-sea-battle exercises (空海一体) [those in question – JR], giving South Korea confidence by giving support to its allies, and sending a signal to China that if China insists on supporting North Korea, America wouldn’t hesitate to put themselves at odds with China.

The article then points out China’s latest core interest, the South China Sea (in addition to Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang), and its growing awareness and assertiveness concerning its territorial waters (海洋国土) in general. The Chinese military’s position concerning the Yellow Sea once again showed China’s determination to defend their maritime rights, according to Ta Kung Pao.

The matter had made the Chinese people aware that their country could still be bullied, and this would make people call for strengthen the military, especially the naval capabilities, writes the paper. America saw a chance to consolidate its military presence in South Korea and Japan, and to use other countries as its agents to control China’s rise and development. But if America really defined China as adverse to its national security, it will put its national interest at stake (拿它的国家利益做赌注).

How America got along with China in East Asia’s changing strategic situation would depend on if a sustainable peace could be upheld in the area [apparently referring to East Asia], Ta Kung Pao summarizes and then repeats its initial question what America actually wanted to achieve.

The Ta Kung Pao article explains American and South Korean in a similar way as other sources, such as Phoenix (凤凰网), have done before, but adds an air of victimhood to it – for now, anyway. Singapore’s Morning News online (联合早报), a news source acceptable to many Chinese readers who are nationalistic but distrust their party-controlled media, republished Ta Kung Pao’s article right away, also on July 9.

With or without effects on China’s and North Korea’s positions, the series of joint US-South Korean naval exercises may go on for months. The first one, almost for sure now, won’t be conducted in the Yellow Sea. But the question on where the American navy in general, and the George Washington in particular, can or cannot go has apparently become a matter of credibility.

“Why has China suddenly decided to pick a fight over the Yellow Sea?”, asks Robert Haddick of the Small Wars Journal.

The George Washington carrier strike group last made a routine transit of the Yellow Sea in October, which few noticed or cared about. If the Chinese government is interested in stability in northeast Asia, it should have stayed quiet and allowed the Korean training exercises to proceed uneventfully as they have for many decades.


Anything less than a transit of the Yellow Sea within the next few weeks by the George Washington and its escorts will come off as a loss of face by the United States.


*) 三缄其口, sān jiān qí kǒu – a refusal to talk with one’s mouth sealed more than once.


Yang Jiechi: Clinton “attacks” China, AP, July 25, 2010
A (mild) Show of Force, July 23, 2010
Zhao Nianyu’s Three Taiwan Commandments, June 19, 2010

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