U.S. Navy Ship in Near Collision with Chinese Aircraft Carrier Posed Threat, Global Times Says

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December 16, 2013

China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier.

By Bloomberg News

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Navy ship that had a confrontation with a Chinese military vessel in the South China Sea posed a threat to national security, China’s Global Times newspaper said amid escalating tensions off the country’s coast.

The U.S. ship got close to China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier, the Global Times newspaper said in an editorial. The Liaoning was deployed last month to the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam.

“America is clearly right up against the front door of China,” the Global Times said. “The American ship coming close to the Liaoning for reconnaissance is already not ’innocent passage’ — it is already a threat to China’s national security.”

The incident came amid heightened tensions in the region over China’s announcement on Nov. 23 that it had established an air defense identification zone over a huge stretch of the East China Sea that covers disputed areas claimed by Japan and South Korea. In a call yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry he hopes the two countries will “deepen strategic trust and cooperation” and “properly handle issues of sensitivity and difference,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga continued verbal sparring today with China over the zone, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked an angry response from China by saying Dec. 14 that China’s action infringed on freedom of flight over the high seas.

Air Defense

“China should attach importance to the fact that many countries in the international community are concerned about the air defense identification zone and should treat this seriously,” Suga told reporters at a briefing in Tokyo today.

The USS Cowpens, operating in international waters, and a Chinese naval vessel “had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision” on Dec. 5, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Dec. 13 in a statement. The U.S. government lodged protests over the incident with Chinese officials in Beijing and Washington, according to a State Department official who asked not to be named because he was discussing the content of diplomatic communications.

“China respects the freedom of navigation and overflight that is in accordance with international laws,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in Beijing today.

Tailing Liaoning

The USS Cowpens was tailing and harassing the Liaoning formation and took offensive action on the day of the confrontation, the Global Times said in a separate news article, citing a source familiar with the confrontation that it didn’t identify.

If the U.S. navy “wanders around” China’s front-door, confrontations are destined to happen, the Global Times editorial said. The Global Times is owned by the People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.

China, citing historical evidence such as pottery shards, claims a tongue-shaped swath of the sea demarcated by nine dashes that extends hundreds of miles south from Hainan Island to the equatorial waters off the coast of Borneo.

Because the South China Sea is close to China in many cases it belongs under the scope of Chinese military deterrence, the Global Times said.

“The Chinese navy cannot allow the U.S. military vessels to do whatever they want there,” it said.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

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