Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | March 21, 2009

Beijing Duck

– and Shimmy

The headline sequence at Google tells the tale:

More patrol ships to curb illegal fishing

China Daily 18 hours ago

China ends naval stand-off and credits Barack Obama

Times Online – March 19, 2009

China not boosting South China Sea naval presence

The Associated Press – March 19, 2009

China extends its South China Sea reach

Radio Australia – March 19, 2009

We need only add the following headlines from US reactions:

China “aggressive” on sea:  US Commander

AFP – March 19, 2009

Gates plays down Russia, China threats

Reuters – March 18, 2009

A serviceable translation of the various official signals and headlines appears to be the following:

The United States reacted to China’s challenge of the American surveillance ships, earlier this month, by affirming our interpretation of the law of the sea (which confers on us the right to operate in the areas where USNS Impeccable and USNS Victorious have been operating); and affirming our intention to continue such operations by assigning an Aegis destroyer escort to USNS Impeccable in her patrol area.

Admiral Keating, the Pacific forces Commander, accurately described China’s maritime challenge to the patrol ships as “aggressive.”  He and Secretary Gates both emphasized, however, that the incidents did not have to affect our military-to-military relations with China.

China has every intention of increasing her maritime patrol profile in the South China Sea.  She will not take this action in a directly confrontational way vis-à-vis the United States, which is what she would be doing by appearing to increase “naval” patrols in response to the US surveillance presence.  Instead, she will conduct her increased patrols on the pretext of fisheries surveillance.

Beijing’s accolade to Obama, and speculation to the press that he reined in a rogue military operation, are more than face-saving measures.  They appear intended to generate a sense of political closure for the incident, and defuse it as an ongoing source of suspicion, and of heightened public interest in what’s going on in the South China Sea.  They may be intended as well to allay US concerns about the need for further armed escort for our surveillance patrols.

And there we have it.  US surveillance stays.  Probably less likely to have armed escort.  Chinese patrols increase.  A stable situation, for now.  Not the same one we started with.

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Responses

  1. [...] USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea, south of Hainan Island.  It was at that time, as reported here last year, that China began the program to arm and repurpose fishing vessels to serve as patrol [...]

  2. [...] inconsistency in this regard, if we compare the determination we showed last year – to persist in maritime surveillance operations near China – with our quiescent, welcome-all-comers stance elsewhere.  What’s important, though, is that [...]

  3. [...] a busy time for China’s maritime assertiveness program), the patrol ship Haixun-31, nominally a fisheries protection/maritime security vessel, conducted a patrol of disputed waters in the Spratly and Paracel Islands on the way to and from a [...]

  4. [...] a busy time for China’s maritime assertiveness program), the patrol ship Haixun-31, nominally a fisheries protection/maritime security vessel, conducted a patrol of disputed waters in the Spratly and Paracel Islands on the way to and from a [...]

  5. [...] a busy time for China’s maritime assertiveness program), the patrol ship Haixun-31, nominally a fisheries protection/maritime security vessel, conducted a patrol of disputed waters in the Spratly and Paracel Islands on the way to and from [...]


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