China Ends Naval Stand-Off And Credits Barack Obama

China Ends Naval Stand-Off And Credits Barack Obama
March 21st, 2009  
Team Infidel

Topic: China Ends Naval Stand-Off And Credits Barack Obama

China Ends Naval Stand-Off And Credits Barack Obama
London Times
March 21, 2009
By Jane Macartney, in Beijing
China effectively ended a stand-off with the United States that began when its naval vessels harassed an American surveillance ship and attributed the reduction in tension directly to President Barack Obama.
Just a day earlier, Beijing said that it would boost patrols in the South China Sea, converting decommissioned naval ships and possibly drafting in fishing boats to protect its interests in the disputed area.
However, a front-page article yesterday in the China Daily headlined “Sino-US sea stand-off appears to have ended” signalled a change of tone. Top commanders had no plans to increase the People’s Liberation Army military presence in the South China Sea, it said.
Li Jie, a senior researcher at he Chinese Navy’s Military Academy, offered remarks that demonstrated Beijing’s apparent eagerness to move forward without an embarrassing climbdown by indicating that it believed that the US military may have acted without Washington’s approval.
He told the China Daily: “It is time to call an end to it. It might be that the US military wanted to flex its muscles but the Barack Obama Administration managed to bring the situation under control for the good of both countries.”
The Pentagon revealed this month that one of its unarmed maritime surveillance ships had been harassed by five Chinese naval boats in waters about 75 miles (120km) off the southern Chinese island of Hainan. China said that the US ship was engaged in spying. The Pentagon then raised the stakes by sending in a destroyer to protect the USNS Impeccable as it carried out its surveys in the region.
In the confrontation the US ship sprayed Chinese vessels with their fire hoses as they approached within metres, prompting the Chinese sailors to strip down to their underwear.
Zhang Tuosheng, director of the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said that neither side wanted to see the incident blow up. “This is because both sides have so many areas they share interests in.”
The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has indicated that diplomatic efforts may have made it unnecessary to send out any more warship escorts for surveillance vessels.
China’s more conciliatory approach may indicate that it has achieved the aim of showing the United States that the modernisation of its navy has made it a force to be reckoned with in its regional waters.
A region of atolls, islands and reefs in the South China is disputed by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, and the area is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. More than half the globe’s oil tanker traffic passes through the South China Sea as it offers the shortest route between the Pacific and Indian oceans for ships bringing energy from the Middle East to China and Japan.
Both the United States and China may have been reluctant to allow the surveillance boat incident to result in heightened tensions at the start of the Obama Administration and just as both countries struggle to cope with the world financial crisis.