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USS Washington comes upsetting Northeast Asia

16:22, November 29, 2010

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By Li Hongmei

The past months have witnessed a succession of intensive military exercises in the Pacific Ocean and Northeast and Southeast Asia between US and its Asian allies near and off China's coasts; some scheduled, and some just hastily arranged, mostly conducted under the lead of the U.S.

And this weekend's presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the strategic Yellow Sea again poses a test for Beijing: Should China shrilly warned against it as what happened four months ago and further aggravate the already tattered ties with Washington, or quietly accept the key symbol of American military preeminence off Chinese shores? After all, it is a time when the public concerns can no longer afford to be neglected. Any affront to China's interests or intrusion into Chinese territorial waters would probably inflame the public and require a government response.

Even if Beijing may hold its reticence this time, partially for the sake of the heightened tensions between two Koreas following the artillery shelling last Tuesday, the U.S. gunboat diplomacy can hardly gain ground in the region where China's influence is growing to challenge the traditional American prestigious position.

Besides, Pentagon's toughness can never rein in the "defiant" North Korea as expected. North Korea, by contrast, warned Friday that the U.S.-South Korean military drills were pushing the peninsula to the "brink of war." The deployment of USS Washington just adds fuel to the flames, breeding brinkmanship.

Perhaps, it is true that the US is good at playing games. And US politicians are sweet-mouthed but then stab you in the back when you are not looking, much the way they are doing now---to pressure China to pick sides. The US has been, for the duration of the year, testing China's resolve over issues ranging from China's offshore ocean sovereignty, to China's core interests, to the Chinese yuan, to trade. Each time it ends up with mutual ties damaged.

This time, it is North Korea, which the West tends to describe as China's "close ally", that the U.S. would like to take as a good chance to pounce on to "hit three birds with one stone"----driving a wedge between Beijing and Pyongyang, or at best, Beijing will abandon its wayward "close ally", otherwise China's international image could be tarnished; cornering North Korea, and out of despair, it will play a destructive role to be visible, say, conducting nuclear tests. Thus, US will readily catch the handle to clampdown its "belligerence". And meanwhile, its jittery Ally-- South Korea will never have the courage to break away from its protective embrace.

On the one hand, the U.S. will never give up its saber-rattling behavior when it comes to handling North Korea issues, while on the other, it lays down the terms for talks forcing N Korea to stop any nuclear activities, which may be seen as the only bargaining chip by the reclusive country in return for what it needs---recognition as well as food. China is therefore caught in between as an active mediator for "six-party" talks.

The U.S. have actually sowed discord between two Koreas, as the U.S. is reluctant to see a unified Korea, which, viewed from geopolitical prism, can not necessarily serve as a puppet to the super power.

In a similar vein, sovereign unity and national resurgence are two missions China must accomplish. But the biggest obstacle to fulfilling those missions also comes from the US, especially from the Pentagon.

The U.S. is also ready to topple the fledgling interactive mechanism among China, North Korea and South Korea. As a matter of fact, the three parties are already on the sound track toward interactions. China and South Korea have upgraded their relations to strategic and cooperative partnership; and North and South Korea also launched "Presidential Dialogue". Besides, both China and South Korea have respectively set up "economic zones" in North Korea. Without the U.S. meddling in, the Northeast Asia would hopefully achieve stability, if not harmony.

But it comes again, also in "good time" to mess up the situation. Under the plausible pretext of South Korea's outrage over the shelling, the warship is coming.

As the world's superpower with an unchallenged navy, no single nation in the world can stop the US from conducting such activity, but Washington will inevitably pay a costly price for its stinking decision.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."