Thursday, July 29, 2010

China’s rapid military modernization and support of North Korea

The US and South Korea recently held a joint naval exercise, mobilizing 8,000 troops, 20 ships and submarines — including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and 200 planes — in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan.
Although the US has said that the maneuvers were aimed at sending a strong message to Pyongyang that aggression (ie sinking of the Cheonan) will not be tolerated, China  -- North Korea’s adamant supporter -- has strongly protested the drills, saying its national interest will be damaged if a US aircraft carrier is deployed in the Yellow Sea, which it views as its “backyard.”

Instead of ignoring these objections, the US made an unprecedented strategic U-turn, deciding to relocate some of the drills away from the sensitive Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan. Moreover, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington will not now enter the Yellow Sea. This conciliatory gesture shocked many security experts in South Korea and Japan. Clearly, China’s increasingly assertive posture toward the Western Pacific has significantly shifted the military status quo that has been maintained in Northeast Asia since World War II. Even though under international law it is legitimate for the US and South Korea to conduct military drills in international waters, Beijing believes this could threaten its sovereignty and therefore considers it unacceptable.
Accordingly, China is now a pivotal consideration for the US when planning maneuvers in the area. Moreover, by backing off the US might well embolden China to take further action that radically alters the balance of power in Northeast Asia.

[Taipei Times]

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