Chinese naval chief: South China Sea incident could ‘spark a war’

PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2007) - USS Princeton (CG 59), USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) and USS Pinckney (DDG 91) transit behind the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) during a joint photo exercise marking the conclusion of Valiant Shield 2007 (VS07). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 are deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet. Valiant Shield 2007 was the largest joint exercise in recent history, including 30 ships, more than 280 aircraft, and more than 20,000 service members from the Navy, Marines Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eduardo Zaragoza (RELEASED)

A minor incident in the South China Sea could “spark a war” – that’s according to  China’s naval commander, who was quoted Friday in state-run media, one day after talks with US officials.

The statement came after a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of Beijing’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago –a disputed group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea.

The Chinese navy giving the US a stern warning to stop its “provocative acts” in the contested waterway, after Tuesday’s incident.

China’s naval commander and U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson spoke about the need to stick to protocols established under the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

Both sides have agreed to follow guidelines to avoid clashes, but beneath the diplomacy, tensions are simmering.

While the US certainly has the more technologically advanced vessels, going head-to-head at sea could pose a significant challenge just because of the sheer numbers of Chinese vessels in the northern part of the South China Sea.

The South Sea fleet is the biggest of the three Chinese fleets — with a total of 166 ships, and many of them the most modern in the fleet.  But security experts say more importantly an expanded coast guard has law enforcement agencies unified, creating a ‘significant presence’.

Both U.S. and regional navies have described “frequent encounters” with Chinese vessels, according to Reuters. The Chinese reportedly “surround and harass” U.S. vessels, in these minor skirmishes.

With only 55 vessels in Washington’s Western Pacific Fleet, US ships in the region are outnumbered by China more than 5-to-1.

According to experts in the region, this is one of the “great power rivalries of our time”  playing out before our eyes. The U.S. is determined to promote freedom of navigation, while China is “hell-bent” on controlling one the world’s busiest sea lanes.

Author

  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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