Friday, November 30, 2007

A gaffe-and-a-half: Kitty Hawk & minesweeper follow-up

The government of China and/or People's Liberation Army (somtimes its tough to figure out who's calling the shots) really shot themselves in the foot with this latest blunder concerning the refusal of American naval vessels seeking entry into Hong Kong harbor. Not only does this latest blunder add to what is becoming a rather long list of bones the American public has to pick with China these days, its effect is exacerbated by the pride the United States has for its blue-water navy, not to mention the belief that America's heavily maritime-influenced culture holds in an honor code on the high seas.

For an excellent example of how the PRC government is hurting China's image with irrational actions arising from equally irrational grievances—over the U.S. honoring the Dalai Lama, or selling Patriot missiles defense upgrades to its ally, Taiwan, etc.—read this editorial by Lorna Hahn, executive director of the Association on Third World Affairs in today's Washington Times:

China-Taiwan tensions

In violation of the long-established principle that all nations should assist ships at sea that are in distress, China recently refused to allow two American minesweepers threatened by a storm to enter Hong Kong harbor for safety and fuel ("China's action troubles admiral," Page 1, Wednesday). Shortly thereafter, it withdrew permission for an American aircraft carrier, carrying sailors planning to spend Thanksgiving with relatives, to enter Hong Kong.

The reason, according to U.S. officials, was the announcement on Nov. 9 that Washington would sell Taiwan $939 million worth of upgraded Patriot missile defense systems in order to "help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance and economic progress in the region."

If China would begin to dismantle its 900-some missiles aimed at Taiwan rather than continually increase their number, Taiwan would not need to increase its defenses against them. Furthermore, if Beijing's leaders would meet with Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, as he has suggested often, tensions in the Taiwan Strait, which often affect other countries, could be replaced by cooperation.

Executive director
Association on Third World

The open sea is perhaps the last place on earth that operates under what, for lack of a better phrase, can be referred to as a 'frontier-style' culture. Just like the fabled unwritten Code of the West in American frontier history, there are certain things on the high seas that—no matter who you are—you just don't do. One of those unwritten taboos is to bar entry into a harbor to any vessel threatened by stormy seas. As long as there's room in the harbor, there's room for more ships, especially when the seas are a-rockin'.

So really, does China's government exhibit the sense of maturity, much less the sense of humanity, to be allowed to recklessly manipulate the international community in the way that it does? Does it have any inherent right to lay claim to a democratic and self-sustaining island when it can't even responsibly attend to its own affairs? We'll leave you with that thought in this wrap-up of the recent PRC-USN SNAFU.

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