July 18, 2011

This Weekend’s News: Naval Exchanges Irk China over South China Sea

Recent naval exercises between the United States and Vietnam
have drawn criticism from China due to disputes between China and Vietnam over
the South China Sea. “United
States and Vietnamese officials have stressed that the seven-day ship visit and
training are part of routine exchanges planned long before tensions began
flaring between China and Vietnam over disputed areas of the South China Sea in
,” The New York Times reported
on Saturday. Yet Chinese officials have chided the United States for proceeding
with the exercises. “Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the
General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, said Monday the timing
of U.S. naval exercises with Vietnam and also recently with the Philippines was
‘inappropriate’ in light of the South China Sea issues
,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Tensions are already high between China and Vietnam and many
Southeast Asian neighbors over China’s encroachment in and sovereignty claims
over large areas of the South China Sea, “a
potentially oil-rich area where Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei,
Malaysia and China all have conflicting territorial claims
,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Vietnam
accused China of interfering with a Vietnamese oil-exploration boat in June,
and the Philippines has likewise complained about Chinese intimidation of
survey vessels recently
,” according to the Journal. “China
alleges Vietnam put Chinese fishermen at risk near the disputed Spratly
islands, which are claimed all or in part by both countries and several other
Asian nations,
” the Associated Press acknowledged.
week, the Philippines told China it plans to raise disputes over the South
China Sea with a United Nations tribunal—a proposal China promptly rejected,
” the Journal added.

Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waded into the
South China Sea dispute when she announced that the United States has a “national
interest” in seeing peaceful reconciliation between China and other Southeast
Asian neighbors over their competing claims to the islands and waters in the
region. According to the Norfolk
Virginian Pilot,
the naval exchanges seemed to reiterate Secretary Clinton’s
remarks, sending a message “that the [U.S.] Navy remains a formidable
maritime force in the region and is determined to build stronger military ties
with smaller Southeast Asian countries.

had a presence in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea for 50 to 60
years, even going back before World War II,’ said Rear Adm. Tom Carney, who's
leading the naval exchange. ‘We will maintain a presence... as we have for
decades, and we have no intention of departing from that kind of activity,’

the Norfolk Virginian­-Pilot reported.

U.S. officials have said that the exercises are benign, focused narrowly on noncombat activites such as search-and-rescue training. Yet Chinese officials have expressed their concerns with the growing U.S. presence in the region as a clear indicator that the United States and others in the region are attempting to balance against China's expanding military capability. Tensions will likely continue to be high throughout the region as the United States expands its military relationships with not only Vietnam, but the Philippines, Singapore and others in South Asia.

This Week's Events

Today at 2:30 PM, the U.S. Institute for Peace will host a
discussion on The
Ticking Time Bomb: South Asia's Nuclear Build-up
. Then at 3 PM, the Wilson
Center will host Backdraft:
Minimizing Conflict in Climate Change Responses.
Finally, end the evening
at Politics and Prose for a conversation on the Tropic
of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence
, beginning at 7

On Tuesday at 9AM, Third Way is hosting a discussion forum,
the dragon: China, the U.S. and the $2.3 trillion energy market
” in the
Senate Visitor Center.  The discussion
will feature Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Kay Hagan, as well as
Senator Chris Coons. Then at 11 AM, head to the New American Foundation for a
conversation on the role of geography and natural resources in shaping global wealth
and power to answer the question “Will the
East Dominate the West in the 21st Century?

On Wednesday, from 8:30AM-5:00PM head to the Wilson Center
for an event on “Harnessing
Natural Resources for Peacebuilding: Lessons From U.S. and Japanese Assistance

On Thursday at 10 AM, the U.S. Japan Research Institute will
explore The Great East
Japan Earthquake: Lessons for Japan’s Energy Policy, Infrastructure
Development, and Media Coverage