Updated: 2010-07-13 07:59
Reports in some foreign media outlets that Beijing considers South China Sea a part of its "core interests" have caused concern among some countries.
This has happened because they have grossly misunderstood China's actions. China is a large country with huge marine resources, but it does not have enough power to protect them.
It is strengthening its marine strategy and its navy to protect its core national interests and not to pose a threat to any country. The People's Republic of China has never infringed upon any country's marine rights. On the contrary, other countries have violated its marine rights and interests repeatedly.
History shows no country can be a great power without a strong naval force. And no country in modern times has faced greater threats from the sea as China. It is thus logical for it to develop and modernize its marine force.
China's sea-related problems are three-fold. First, China has very complicated and intractable problems with its waters-sharing neighbors. Longstanding disputes over China's core interests in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea come to the fore from time to time.
The subjects of these disputes range from sovereign control of islands to delimitation of exclusive economic zones. For example, the dispute over the South China Sea involves conflicting claims of several parties in the region and interference of outside powers.
Second, China has some inherent internal weaknesses and faces outside threats to its marine interests. Internally, the country is yet to build a sound naval force, and its ocean strategy lags far behind its economic and political strategies. Externally, it has lost valuable resources when other powers have seized its islands and exploited its waters. It faces threats to its sea lanes, too.
By misinterpreting the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and basing their actions on the so-called principles of "adjacency, prescription and security", some countries have violated its rights over islands, reefs and territorial waters.
Third, these disputes are seriously depleting China's strategic resources. For example, it is impossible to resolve the disputes over the South China Sea to the mutual benefit of all because of the huge differences in the political stances, sincerity and tactics of the other parties. China has to use an enormous part of its economic and diplomatic resources in its efforts to settle such issues with every country that has a stake in the region.
Seas have played a very important role in the development of a country. And their importance has multiplied manifold in the era of globalization. In order to secure its maritime resources, waterways and national security, a country has to defend its sea rights and interests.
The disputes over rights and interests in the East China Sea, Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea are the remnants of the history of invasions of China from across the seas and colonial rule. But China's claims are based fully on historical facts. Its territorial sovereignty, strategic resources and trade routes comprise its core interests, and like any other country China will never compromise them.
Rapid economic development and rising national strength have given China the chance to make it clear to the international community that it will never compromise its core interests.
By adding the South China Sea to its core interests, China has shown its determination to secure its maritime resources and strategic waters. Its South China Sea strategy should thus be seen as a move to make up for its past ignorance about sea power and not as an aggressive expansionist measure.
China's foreign policy has always depended on a "soft, gentle" approach, and it has practiced the doctrine of "setting aside disputes and working for joint development" of the seas with neighboring countries. Its new naval development strategy is a continuation of this approach and aimed exclusively at "offshore defense".
While securing its core interests, China will continue to cultivate friendly ties with neighbors, increase regional cooperation and seek common development. It has no intention of posing a threat to other countries. But it has to change its backward marine strategy to suit the changing times.
Its strategic initiatives should not be misunderstood by other countries - something that the West often does. The West, because of its tainted glasses, sees China's military modernization as military expansionism with potential strategic aggression.
What Western politicians and media do not understand is China's need to safeguard its security to ensure sound economic and social development. It's a matter of perspective that the West considers a dragon as a symbol of "evil" when in China it signifies "luck".
To safeguard its core interests, China should increase bilateral and multilateral exchanges with the countries that have a stake in the region, and actively publicize its commitment in building a "harmonious world". It should clarify its stance and eliminate fuzzy statements; hold all-round talks with other countries and strengthen political, economic and military mutual trust to help them understand that it is modernizing its navy for self-defense and is committed to traveling the road of peace to secure its core interests.
The author is an associate professor at the School of Politics and Public Administration, Guangdong Ocean University.
(China Daily 07/13/2010 page9
Analysts suggest Korea should take steps to ease Beijing security fears
July 12, 2010
The joint South Korea-U.S. naval exercise is meant to send a warning to North Korea about provocative actions in the Yellow Sea after the North’s sinking of the Cheonan in March.
But Beijing has opposed the anti-submarine exercise, which may include the U.S.S. George Washington, a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, because the drill will take place close to its territorial waters.
South Korea’s relations with China have already been strained in recent months following the sinking of the Cheonan because of China’s efforts to water down any international condemnation of North Korea.
Security analysts in Seoul say that South Korea could ease tensions with Beijing by inviting Chinese observers to the upcoming exercise or reduce the scale of the operation.
China’s media and security analysts have had harsh words about the exercise after the U.S. Department of Defense announced on June 28 that the drill would take place this month.
Qu Xing, president of the state-run China Institute of International Studies, said China felt “very sensitive” about the exercise, adding that Seoul needed to take into account the reaction of North Korea when the inter-Korean relations had sunk to their lowest level in at least a decade.
“Even when you use the exclusive economic zone [of South Korea] for peaceful purposes, you still need consensus from neighboring countries,” Qu told journalists. “You need to make a decision on the military exercise very cautiously by considering inter-Korea relations, Korea-China relations and U.S.-China relations.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Beijing “resolutely opposes” foreign military warships and aircraft coming close to Chinese waters.
“Our stance is consistent and clear,” Qin said. “We have already expressed our resolute interest and concerns to related parties.”
Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, said the exercise had the potential to “destabilize the Northeast Asia region more than the Cheonan incident.”
“Is South Korea trying to take revenge on China for not joining the criticism of North Korea regarding the Cheonan issue?” said the paper in an editorial. It added, the military exercise “is something South Korea should not do to China, its biggest trading partner.”
South Korea has shown no attempt to appease China. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said, “I am pretty sure China understands well the nature of this joint drill.”
But analysts say that Seoul must take into account that China agreed to a presidential statement from the UN Security Council last week condemning the attack on the Cheonan, although it did not name North Korea as the guilty party.
One senior Foreign Ministry official said China made a “very significant, painful but right decision” in supporting the statement.
Lee Su-seok, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said Seoul needs to work harder to avoid political disputes with China, which views the involvement of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea as having a possible link to plans by the U.S. to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack on the island.
“You can give China some options, like inviting Chinese officials to view the drill or keeping them updated about the drill’s progress and activities to some degree,” he said.
Kim Ki-jung, a professor of political science at Yonsei University, said another option to ease China’s opposition is to reduce the scale of the exercise, which is now expected to include nuclear submarines, Aegis-class destroyers and F-15 combat fighters in addition to the aircraft carrier.
“You can’t just cancel the scheduled military drill because China opposes it,” he said. “But you can minimize the diplomatic disputes by scaling back the exercise and strategically choosing the timing of the event.”
However, some China-based analysts believe that fears over a rise in tensions between South Korea and China are exaggerated.
Zhang Baohui, a professor of political science at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, told Yonhap that the U.S. and China have been cooperating closely on how to deal with North Korea, as shown by the UN statement, and this “might deflect attention on the U.S.-South Korean naval exercise.”
By Jung Ha-won [firstname.lastname@example.org]