HOW FAR WILL THE DRAGON SWIM?
China Joins India and Japan in Patrols Off Somalia
The Chinese People's Liberation Army's Navy is no "Puff the Magic Dragon". However, the kind of face it showed the world in 1988 when it machine-gunned to death a group of unarmed Vietnamese sailors attempting to plant their national flag on an offshore island most likely well within the Vietnamese internationally recognized Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) , is not always the face it shows the World. (Click the following link for a video of China's attack on Vietnam) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy2ZrFphSmchttp:
Sometimes the Dragon likes to appear in kinder gentler image. Appearances can be deceiving.
China which recently completed naval good will tours with India and Japan, is closely cooperating with the Indian Navy and the Japanese Naval Self Defense Forces off of Somalia in piracy suppression. The world needs piracy suppression just now so one hopes this might be a good thing, and in and of itself, it probably is. This cooperation certainly appears to be a sign of China's willingness to work with other nations in safeguarding global trade despite mixed sentiments among the Chinese toward the nation's two major Asian rivals.
The Japanese naval force took its turn as the lead navy recently in a three nation pact that allows the synchronization of patrols. Some naval analysts believe the Chinese, Japanese, Indian naval pact against Somali piracy is a sign of growing Chinese naval confidence. These analysts view growing Chinese naval confidence as a good sign that in waters closer to home like the South China Sea where there are territorial disputes with Japan and others, and the U.S. Navy frequently operates, that the chances of a misstep that could lead to a shooting episode are lessened.
U.S. Naval War College analyst Toshi Yoshihara has stated:
"Chinese collaboration with other navies should be welcome. The hope is that such cooperation will have a positive normative effect on the civilian and military leadership." China joined the Gulf of Aden anti -piracy patrols in late 2008. China was able to do this after a 500% increase in defense spending over the prior thirteen years. This increase has allowed the PLAN to acquire the latest in surface ships, submarines, and soon an aircraft carrier. Participation in such patrols helps the PLAN learn how to operate their new and sophisticated fleet. This deployment and cooperative undertaking demonstrates China's growing global naval reach and increasing ability to prosecute traditional naval missions. This suits the Dragon's purpose.
Despite this recent cooperation the Chinese have strong anti Japanese sentiments based on Japan's brutal World War II occupation of China. Beijing still sees India as a giant rival for influence and trade. China has ocean island and EEZ disputes with Japan and a still unsettled land border dispute with India. The decision to cooperate with such rivals is seen by some analysts as a sign of growing pragmatism in China.
We respectfully disagree. Even while all these seemingly positive developments are going on, the Dragon is hacking Indian naval secrets and preparing to oppose Vietnam's recent legislative action laying claim to islands near them that China none the less claims. Last time the Dragon shot first and asked questions later. So the dragon can swim very far and plays well with others when it suits him. But he is still a dragon and has one behavior for the powerful and quite another for the weak. We again urge both India and Japan to stand up to the Dragon on behalf of, and in concert with, their weaker neighbors. The Dragon, a control freak, will eventually collapse of its own weight. India and Japan are real democracies and industrial societies with real navies with real stakes in the region. America has only one legitimate interest in the region, freedom of navigation, "innocent passage". We are not welcome and are seen as an outside power. Unfortunately with our defense commitments in the area, over aggressive behavior by the Dragon could drag us in. We can't dictate terms, we must take a back seat to India and Japan and pray for their success.
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