Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Threats won't help China make friends
CHINA is warning Asian countries that holding military exercises with the United States is bad for their health.
South Korea and Vietnam, both of which have recently conducted naval activities with their American counterparts, have been warned that the US is far away, suffering from financial difficulties and is not a reliable partner, while China is right next door.
"Military drills leave South Korea insecure," blared a headline Friday in the Global Times, sister paper of the People's Daily.
South Korea and the US are holding a series of military exercises aimed at warning North Korea not to take any more bellicose actions against the South. The manoeuvres follow the sinking in March of a South Korean naval vessel, allegedly by a North Korean torpedo, with the loss of 46 lives.
Will such exercises, and a stronger military alliance with the US, provide Seoul with the security it is looking for, the Global Times asked.
"New military drills will only send more hostile signals to the North," the commentary said. "It is this hostility that has been the source of insecurity and has forced North Korea to take more risky actions."
Moreover, the commentary made clear, South Korea was not only antagonising North Korea -- it was also provoking China.
"Whatever the explanations the US and South Korea offered, the military drills surrounding China's offshore sea obviously have the intention of targeting China," it said.
The Pentagon has announced that the aircraft carrier USS George Washington will not take part in planned exercises next month in the Yellow Sea near China. This is the second time the carrier has not taken part in exercises in the Yellow Sea after the Chinese protested that its presence would jeopardise their national security.
The American decision to once again accommodate Beijing will no doubt be noted in Seoul. The Global Times commentary, without naming names, added: "South Korea needs to keep clear-minded that its security has to be built on goodwill with its neighbours. A stronger South Korea-United States alliance might jeopardise the trust of Seoul with its neighbours, and lead to more insecurity."
That is to say, it would be a mistake for South Korea to think that it could rely on the United States to deal with its mighty neighbour -- China.
A similar warning was delivered to Vietnam, which recently conducted its first joint naval engagement activities with the US.
USS George Washington also sailed to Vietnam after exercises east of the Korean peninsula.
Perhaps even more significantly, Vietnam and the US held their first defence dialogue last week at a time when Washington's military-to-military dialogue with Beijing remains suspended.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jiang Yu, warned that Vietnam's situation was "as precarious as a pile of eggs", with potential hazards lurking on every side.
Vietnam, she warned, was incurring Chinese displeasure.
Hanoi "might well overestimate the capacity of Uncle Sam's protective umbrella," she declared bluntly. "Should China and Vietnam truly come into military clashes, no aircraft carrier of any country can ensure it to remain secure."
She advised Vietnam to "give up the illusion that it can do what it likes in the South China Sea under the protection of the American navy".
China is also pointing out to one and all that the US is bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, facing a difficult economic and fiscal situation, is taking steps to reduce its military expenditure.
Thus, the People's Daily online reported the dismantling of the Joint Forces Command, established less than a year ago in Norfolk, Virginia, to focus on the transformation of US military capabilities.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said that though the defence budget is growing by one or two percentage points a year, this is not enough to maintain today's fighting capabilities, which requires growth of two to three per cent.
China, on the other hand, is in much better financial shape and can afford to have its defence budget grow by close to double digits every year. While the Chinese strategy of threats and intimidation may have some effect, it would be much wiser for China to return to its old policy of emphasising goodwill and joint development rather than sticks.
China's charm offensive since the 1980s was hugely effective. Resorting to threats and blackmail may cow some of the smaller countries in Asia but will not create reliable friends and allies, which is what China needs. Frank Ching for the New Straits Times Kuala Lumpur