China exploiting CheonanIn a rare move earlier this week, China invited the media to carry footage of its warships shooting missiles in a naval exercise. The navy of the People’s Liberation Army had carried out a six-day maritime and air ammunition drill in the East Sea starting last Wednesday.
While hyping its own military parade as a routine exercise, China was unusually outspoken against a planned naval exercise between South Korea and the United States in the Yellow Sea, which follows the sinking of South Korea’s naval corvette Cheonan near the area in March.
Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chairman of People’s Liberation Army, said in an interview with Hong Kong TV that China strongly opposes the South Korea-U.S. anti-submarine drill in the sea near its coast. Gen. Liu Yuan, political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Sciences, warned that if the U.S. aircraft carrier goes forward with the training exercise, it could become the target of a Chinese artillery drill.
We cannot help but suspect the Chinese military of capitalizing on the South Korea-U.S. naval drill to strengthen its own military capabilities. The tension surrounding the Cheonan is a timely opportunity for China to showcase its naval competence and flaunt its military and economic strength before the world.
The South Korea-U.S. maritime war game is part of our efforts to contain North Korea following the attack on the Cheonan, which killed 46 of our sailors. We cannot let the event pass without doing anything. China has no reason to be upset about the exercise - unless it has an ulterior motive.
China had been recalcitrant in extending its support for international condemnation against North Korea via the United Nations Security Council. On the surface, it maintains that it is not fully convinced that North Korea perpetrated the attack.
Such an attitude does not befit a country that wants global hegemony with the United States.
Furthermore, pushing North Korea into a corner and disrupting affairs on the Korean Peninsula will not help China in any way. Rather, China wants to keep disruption and unrest at bay.
North Korea has attacked a South Korean warship in the southern side of the sea. Resolution of the matter should simply involve punishment for the attack - and exclude other political and military factors.
Meanwhile, China should stop defending North Korea. If the UN Security Council delivers an appropriate ruling against North Korea on the Cheonan incident, South Korea and the U.S. can exercise flexibility in their planned military drill. It is up to China.