Saturday, December 14, 2013

• Chinese Naval Vessel Tries to Force U.S. Warship to Stop in International Waters by BY: Bill Gertz





The USS Cowpens / AP
Landing ship sailed dangerously close to U.S. guided missile cruiser

A Chinese naval vessel tried to force a U.S. guided missile warship to stop in international waters recently, causing a tense military standoff in the latest case of Chinese maritime harassment, according to defense officials.

The guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, which recently took part in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, was confronted by Chinese warships in the South China Sea near Beijing’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning, according to officials familiar with the incident.

“On December 5th, while lawfully operating in international waters in the South China Sea, USS Cowpens and a PLA Navy vessel had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision,” a Navy official said.

“This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap.”

A State Department official said the U.S. government issued protests to China in both Washington and Beijing in both diplomatic and military channels.

The Cowpens was conducting surveillance of the Liaoning at the time. The carrier had recently sailed from the port of Qingdao on the northern Chinese coast into the South China Sea.

According to the officials, the run-in began after a Chinese navy vessel sent a hailing warning and ordered the Cowpens to stop. The cruiser continued on its course and refused the order because it was operating in international waters.


Zoom in (real dimensions: 876 x 493)Image
Handout photo taken September 20, 2012 and released to Reuters
on September 25, 2012 of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile
cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) in the Pacific Ocean.(REUTERS)

Then a Chinese tank landing ship sailed in front of the Cowpens and stopped, forcing the Cowpens to abruptly change course in what the officials said was a dangerous maneuver.

According to the officials, the Cowpens was conducting a routine operation done to exercise its freedom of navigation near the Chinese carrier when the incident occurred about a week ago.

The encounter was the type of incident that senior Pentagon officials recently warned could take place as a result of heightened tensions in the region over China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called China’s new air defense zone destabilizing and said it increased the risk of a military “miscalculation.”

China’s military forces in recent days have dispatched Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets, as well as KJ-2000 airborne warning and control aircraft, to the zone to monitor the airspace that is used frequently by U.S. and Japanese military surveillance aircraft.

The United States has said it does not recognize China’s ADIZ, as has Japan’s government.

Two U.S. B-52 bombers flew through the air zone last month but were not shadowed by Chinese interceptor jets.

Chinese naval and air forces also have been pressing Japan in the East China Sea over Tokyo’s purchase a year ago of several uninhabited Senkaku Islands located north of Taiwan and south of Okinawa.

China is claiming the islands, which it calls the Diaoyu. They are believed to contain large undersea reserves of natural gas and oil.

The Liaoning, China’s first carrier that was refitted from an old Soviet carrier, and four warships recently conducted their first training maneuvers in the South China Sea. The carrier recently docked at the Chinese naval port of Hainan on the South China Sea.

Defense officials have said China’s imposition of the ADIZ is aimed primarily at curbing surveillance flights in the zone, which China’s military regards as a threat to its military secrets.

The U.S. military conducts surveillance flights with EP-3 aircraft and long-range RQ-4 Global Hawk drones.

In addition to the Liaoning, Chinese warships in the flotilla include two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and the Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and the Weifang.

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said it is likely that the Chinese deliberately staged the incident as part of a strategy of pressuring the United States.

“They can afford to lose an LST [landing ship] as they have about 27 of them, but they are also usually armed with one or more twin 37 millimeter cannons, which at close range could heavily damage a lightly armored U.S. Navy destroyer,” said Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Most Chinese Navy large combat ships would be out-ranged by the 127-millimeter guns deployed on U.S. cruisers, except China’s Russian-made Sovremenny-class ships and Beijing’s new Type 052D destroyers that are armed with 130-millimeter guns.

The encounter appears to be part of a pattern of Chinese political signaling that it will not accept the presence of American military power in its East Asian theater of influence, Fisher said.

“China has spent the last 20 years building up its Navy and now feels that it can use it to obtain its political objectives,” he said.

Fisher said that since early 2012 China has gone on the offensive in both the South China and East China Seas.

“In this early stage of using its newly acquired naval power, China is posturing and bullying, but China is also looking for a fight, a battle that will cow the Americans, the Japanese, and the Filipinos,” he said.

To maintain stability in the face of Chinese military assertiveness, Fisher said the United States and Japan should seek an armed peace in the region by heavily fortifying the Senkaku Islands and the rest of the island chain they are part of.

“The U.S. and Japan should also step up their rearmament of the Philippines,” Fisher said.

The Cowpens incident is the most recent example of Chinese naval aggressiveness toward U.S. ships.

The U.S. intelligence-gathering ship, USNS Impeccable, came under Chinese naval harassment from a China Maritime Surveillance ship, part of Beijing’s quasi-military maritime patrol craft, in June.

During that incident, the Chinese ship warned the Navy ship it was operating illegally despite sailing in international waters. The Chinese demanded that the ship first obtain permission before sailing in the area that was more than 100 miles from China’s coast.

The U.S. military has been stepping up surveillance of China’s naval forces, including the growing submarine fleet, as part of the U.S. policy of rebalancing forces to the Pacific.

The Impeccable was harassed in March 2009 by five Chinese ships that followed it and sprayed it with water hoses in an effort to thwart its operations.

A second spy ship, the USNS Victorious, also came under Chinese maritime harassment several years ago.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, when asked last summer about increased Chinese naval activities near Guam and Hawaii in retaliation for U.S. ship-based spying on China, said the dispute involves different interpretations of controlled waters.

Locklear said in a meeting with reporters in July, “We believe the U.S. position is that those activities are less constrained than what the Chinese believe.”

China is seeking to control large areas of international waters—claiming they are part of its United Nations-defined economic exclusion zone—that Locklear said cover “most of the major sea lines of communication” near China and are needed to remain free for trade and shipping.

Locklear, who is known for his conciliatory views toward the Chinese military, sought to play down recent disputes. When asked if the Chinese activities were troubling, he said: “I would say it’s not provocative certainly. I’d say that in the Asia-Pacific, in the areas that are closer to the Chinese homeland, that we have been able to conduct operations around each other in a very professional and increasingly professional manner.”

The Pentagon and U.S. Pacific Command have sought to develop closer ties to the Chinese military as part of the Obama administration’s Asia pivot policies.

However, China’s military has shown limited interest in closer ties.

China’s state-controlled news media regularly report that the United States is seeking to defeat China by encircling the country with enemies while promoting dissidents within who seek the ouster of the communist regime.

The Obama administration has denied it is seeking to “contain” China and has insisted it wants continued close economic and diplomatic relations.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to seek a new type of major power relationship during a summit in California earlier this year. However, the exact nature of the new relationship remains unclear.






Image

Chinese warships recently tried to force a United States guided missile warship to stop in international waters. The USS Cowpens was confronted by Chinese naval vessels in the South China Sea, near China’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning.

According to a Navy official, “On December 5th, while lawfully operating in international waters in the South China Sea, USS Cowpens and a PLA Navy vessel had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision.”

“This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap,” he added.
Surveillance was being conducted on the Liaoning at the time by the USS Cowpens. Washington used their diplomatic and military means to protest the halt.

According to the Washington Free Beacon:

Quote:

According to the officials, the run-in began after a Chinese navy vessel sent a hailing warning and ordered the Cowpens to stop. The cruiser continued on its course and refused the order because it was operating in international waters.

hen a Chinese tank landing ship sailed in front of the Cowpens and stopped, forcing the Cowpens to abruptly change course in what the officials said was a dangerous maneuver.

According to the officials, the Cowpens was conducting a routine operation done to exercise its freedom of navigation near the Chinese carrier when the incident occurred about a week ago.

The encounter was the type of incident that senior Pentagon officials recently warned could take place as a result of heightened tensions in the region over China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.


Earlier this year China declared an air-defense zone in the East China Sea. Following the announcement by China, US military leaders flew two unarmed B-52s through the area.

Many are saying that due to the modernization of China’s military, the nation is becoming emboldened, and these confrontations by China are a flexing of the country’s muscles.

“While Naval modernization is a natural development for any sea-faring nation such as China, it is clear the modernization is emboldening the Chinese government to exert their interests by bullying their neighbors and pushing back the United States in the Asia Pacific region,” said Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

Seth Cropsey, a senior fellow at The Hudson Institute, told the subcommittee, “Chinese leaders are ambitious, and they are moving toward great power status. The U.S. is not taking this possibility as seriously as it should.”

Jim Thomas, vice president and director of studies for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Forbes’ Subcommittee, “A decade ago China was reliant upon Russian assistance in its armaments, but is now increasingly shifted toward indigenous design and production. It is rapidly building up a modernized submarine force, and its advanced guided missile destroyers represent a major improvement in fleet air defenses.”

The Economist reported on the China’s military expansion, which it referenced as the “world’s biggest military expansion” in a piece titled “The Dragon’s New Teeth.”

While the US continues to possess more military assets, China has been on a path of spending more annually on defense than the US.

Earlier this year, it was reported that China was set to become a serious player in nuclear missile submarines. China also is not only building up militarily, but they are preparing, along with Russia to overtake the US, despite claims otherwise. Recently, we have covered how they announced they would put an end to stockpiling US Dollars and how the Chinese are pouring billions into building Chinese cities in the US.

It appears to me, that our debt makes us much more vulnerable to nations like China and also raises tensions even more over incidents like those mentioned above, especially when the current and previous administrations are so eager to go along with whatever China wants to do. In either case, it does make one wonder if whether this administration even considers the threat of the Chinese military buildup.



American and Chinese Navy Ships Nearly Collide in South China Sea
by JANE PERLEZ - Saturday, December 14, 2013


Zoom in (real dimensions: 2520 x 1800)Image
A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi SH-60J Sea 
Hawk helicopter flies over the guided-missile cruiser 
USS Cowpens (CG 63) during Annual Exercise


BEIJING — In a sign of the increased tensions between the United States and China on the open seas, navy vessels from the two countries almost collided in the South China Sea when a Chinese ship cut across the bow of an American cruiser, a senior United States defense official said on Saturday. A serious accident was averted when the U.S.S. Cowpens, a missile-carrying cruiser traveling in international waters, was forced to maneuver to avoid the Chinese vessel, the official said.

The episode, which occurred on Dec. 5 but did not become public until Friday, was one more example of the growing rivalry between China, a rising maritime power, and the United States, the dominant naval power in the Pacific region since World War II. It came as the Obama administration has chastised China for imposing an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea over islands and airspace that are also claimed by Japan. The U.S.S. Cowpens was observing the new Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as it made its first voyage in the South China Sea from its home base in Qingdao, the headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet, the defense official and American Navy experts said. 

The official and Navy experts spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The Chinese vessel cut across the bow of the America ship at a distance of less than 200 yards, the defense official said. The vessel was similar to an American tank landing ship and was accompanying the aircraft carrier, apparently as a screen. The tactic of the Chinese ship “was particularly aggressive” and “unhelpful in trying to increase cooperation between the two navies,” he said. Analysts said the tense encounter underscored the dangers of the current situation in the area.

“This illustrates the anxieties between the United States and China, and it is very troubling,” said Lyle J. Goldstein, an associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College on Rhode Island. “International politics on both sides call for ratcheting up of tensions, and I don’t see either side finding compromises. Neither side knows the other’s red lines.” Surveillance activities by the United States of Chinese military operations have always been sensitive. In 2001, an American EP3 spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet in the waters off southern China, an accident that sent relations between Washington and Beijing into a freeze.
Ever since, Chinese officials have complained to senior American officials about American planes’ peering into Chinese waters, saying that the practice treats China like the enemy, a senior American official said recently. 

The United States replies with its own complaint: that the lack of transparency by China impels America to do its own reconnaissance, the official said. The information office at the Chinese ministry of national defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment. American officials said the U.S.S. Cowpens had been adhering to international guidelines governing such naval maneuvers. “Our cruiser was operating in international waters of the South China Sea, not close into the coast and in the general vicinity of the aircraft carrier,” the defense official said. The Chinese ship accompanying the aircraft carrier began shouldering the American cruiser, and then crossed its bow, he said. 

After making the evasive maneuver, there was “bridge-to-bridge” contact, in English, between the two ships, the official said. “It was tense but professional,” he said.
In a formal statement, the Pacific Fleet based in Hawaii said, “This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standard of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap.” It was not clear how far the U.S.S. Cowpens, a vessel more than two decades old, was sailing from the Chinese aircraft carrier. But because of the sophisticated American radar, it did not have to be particularly close in order to observe it, naval experts said.

The Chinese aircraft carrier, a refurbished Ukrainian vessel, was launched last year, and is not yet fully operational. For instance, it does not carry a full complement of aircraft. Still, the United States Navy wants to understand how the Chinese are planning to use the carrier. When it left port, the carrier was accompanied by two missile destroyers and two missile frigates, Chinese new media reported. Officials from the American and Chinese navies meet every year to discuss maritime rules and incidents at sea, but so far, the gatherings have been fairly desultory, Mr. Goldstein said. “The maritime consultative agreement has been a disappointment to the American side,” he said.

The American defense official drew a comparison between the behavior and operations of Iranian and American navies, and that of the Chinese. “We operate in the vicinity of the Iranian navy,” he said. “The exchanges are curt but professional.” The fact that the episode between the U.S.S. Cowpens and the Chinese ship took place in the South China Sea is bound to raise concerns, naval experts said. China contends that more than 80 percent of the sea is under its purview, and in a signal of its intention to enforce that claim, the nation has taken virtual ownership from the Philippines of the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. In March 2009, five Chinese ships harassed the USNS Impeccable in international waters in the South China Sea, forcing the American ship to make an emergency maneuver in order to avoid a collision.



Why China forced a confrontation at sea with US Navy
by Anna Mulrine - Saturday, December 14, 2013



Image
US Navy FA-18 Hornets cram the flight deck of the USS George Washington during 
a joint military exercise with Japan in the Pacific Ocean near Japan's southernmost 
island of Okinawa in November. The 13-day drill ended in the day as an air defense 
zone newly declared by China on Nov. 23 in the East China Sea has raised some 
tensions in the region

Zoom in (real dimensions: 4928 x 3280)Image
The guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) maneuvers into position during a 
replenishment-at-sea. Cowpens is on patrol with the George Washington Carrier 
Strike Group in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security 
and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.


Reports that a Chinese navy vessel tried this month to force a US warship to a halt in international waters have senior US officials and longtime Asia analysts asking what, precisely, China was trying to prove by the maneuver. 

US naval officials note that the USS Cowpens – a guided missile warship – was “lawfully operating” in waters near the South China Sea when it had an encounter with a People's Liberation Army (PLA) vessel “that required maneuvering to avoid a collision,” according to an article in the Washington Free Beacon. 

The incident followed China’s announcement that it will establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, a move that elicited howls of objection from the US military, as well as from China’s neighbors in Southeast Asia, who worry about Beijing's growing willingness to flex its military muscle in the region. While US Navy officials confirm the episode, they also caution that these sorts of standoffs with China happen with relative frequency in the Pacific and that, according to one Navy officer with knowledge of the event, it’s important not to “overhype” the incident.

That said, the recent run-in holds a larger message, analysts say. The chief one may be that the US will not be able to comfortably troll the waters of the western Pacific.
“The Chinese are trying to make it clear that, if the US wants to operate in these waters, then it should be prepared to be operating under a high state of tension,” says Dean Cheng, senior research fellow for Chinese political and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation. “If the US doesn’t want tension, then it’s very simple: leave.” 
The confrontation, he adds, was “a deliberate effort to intimidate.”

If this is the case, then to what end? After all, some Chinese prefer to strengthen the bilateral relationship with the United States rather than to pursue "hawkish," hegemonic ambitions. One possible answer is that recent PLA moves indicate that the “Chinese are now trying to establish a much greater presence in the western Pacific,” says Michael Swaine, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“In a sense, they want to convey to other countries that they are out there, they’re operating, and other people need to recognize this and abide by their desires.” 
The USS Cowpens was conducting surveillance of China’s new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, at the time. According to the Washington Free Beacon, a Chinese ship that was accompanying the carrier moved in front of the Cowpens to try to make it come to a full halt – hardly a safe maneuver. The bottom line is that China is out “to make sure that the US shows "respect" to China – that they acknowledge a sphere of influence,” says Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

For this reason, he adds, “China’s military posture is increasingly assertive.” The net result, Cronin adds, could be that China is behaving in a way that increasingly coalesces an anti-China faction – "the very one that China is purporting to be trying to guard against."



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