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EDITORIAL | Ground China Warships, Planes Until They Can Abide by Int’l Rules

China is trying to intimidate neighbors and push the US to war by engaging in truly dangerous military maneuvers and refusing to talk to US counterparts.



Chinese warship Luyang III sails nearand crosses in front of the US destroyer USS Chung-Hoon. This image is taken from the deck of US destroyer in the Taiwan Strait on June 3, 2023. (US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre T. Richard/Handout via REUTERS)

Recently the Chinese military has engaged in repeated provocations against United States Naval vessels and aircraft. In one incident, on March 3, the US Navy guided-missile destroyer Chung-Hoon and a frigate belonging to the Canadian Navy were transiting the Taiwan Strait. A Navy destroyer belonging to China overtook them and crossed in front of the US destroyer at a distance of only about 140 meters. The US destroyer was forced to immediately reduce speed in order to avoid a collision.

The US Indo-Pacific Command issued a statement criticizing the Chinese Navy for violating the "maritime 'Rules of the Road' of safe passage in international waters."

China's Aggressive Response

One wrong move in this close encounter could have resulted in direct confrontation between the two sides. Moreover, it could have resulted in the loss of human lives or even military conflict.

China's foreign ministry responded by claiming: "The US side stirred up troubles and made provocation first, while the Chinese side dealt with this in accordance with corresponding laws and regulations…. [The actions taken by the Chinese military] were completely reasonable, legal, safe, and professional."

This is nothing but pure sophistry. 

A Chinese fighter jet "Ji-16" flies near the US Air Force's RC-135 electronic reconnaissance aircraft in the South China Sea on May 31. (Provided by the US Navy, AP via Kyodo)

What Actually Happened

It was the Chinese destroyer that engaged in the dangerous provocation. This is crystal clear from the video footage of the incident released by the US Navy and Canada.

Another incident occurred at the end of May, in international airspace over the South China Sea. That time a Chinese fighter jet crossed in front of the nose of a US military reconnaissance plane and interfered with its flight. 

A video of the encounter was also released by the US military. It shows the cockpit of the US reconnaissance plane shaking violently as the Chinese fighter approaches to within six meters. In that case, as well, China refused to acknowledge that it was at fault.

Chinese warship Luyang III sails near and crosses in front of the US destroyer USS Chung-Hoon. As seen from the deck of US destroyer in the Taiwan Strait on June 3, 2023, in this handout picture. (US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre T. Richard/Handout via REUTERS)

Time for China to Follow International Rules

The Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea do not belong to China. According to international law, all nations have the right to sail through or fly above them. If they will not abide by international law, then the Chinese military is not qualified to operate in the world's oceans and skies. 

How about Chinese warships and military remaining at their own ports and airfields until they are prepared to abide by international law?

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Li Shangfu speaks at the Asian Security Conference in Singapore on June 4. (©Kyodo)

Rejecting China's Divisive Strategy

The day following the provocation in the Taiwan Strait, China's Defense Minister Li Shangfu addressed the Shangri-La Dialogue. It is an important Asian security conference held annually in Singapore. 

Li charged that "certain nations" are attempting to divide and destabilize the Indo-Pacific region. They are creating disputes and confrontation and escalating tension to drive [China] into a "vortex of confrontation."


But isn't it China itself that has been creating these problems?

A great deal of the attention accorded to the Shangri-La meeting centered around speculation as to whether Li would meet with his US counterpart Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. However, the Chinese side did not respond to Austin's call for talks. Li only met with the defense ministers from South Korea, Japan, and other countries.

Furthermore, it was quite evident why they were treated differently from the United States. That is because of Beijing's determination to drive the US and its allies in the Asia-Pacific apart.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Direct Communication is Essential

Secretary Austin called for talks among top defense officials. This also stems from his belief that dialogue is essential to avoid an accidental military clash with the Chinese side. 

The Chinese military should not turn its back on such an opportunity.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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