- - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

General on U.S. “hegemony”

On Thursday in Beijing, Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s general staff, issued an unusual and caustic tirade against the United States at the start of a meeting with visiting South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin.

The comments followed Gen. Chen’s meetings the week before with his American counterpart, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Chen lectured his South Korean guest on America’s hegemonic attitude toward other countries. Furthermore, he suggested to Kim that Seoul should have the same resentment against Washington’s hegemonic attitude, and that China understands South Korea’s reluctance to openly express such resentment against the United States because of its close ally status with Washington.

Gen. Chen’s outburst drew criticism from South Korea. The Chosun Ilbo newspaper published an editorial that said, “Chen’s comments were discourteous and violated diplomatic protocol. … Using such a setting to harshly criticize a third country, and a close ally of the visitor’s, is unlikely to make the visitor feel comfortable. Chen, who is the chairman of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, ranks lower than China’s defense minister, Kim’s counterpart. It was a diplomatic discourtesy for Chen to ramble on and on without giving his senior a chance to speak.”

The same Seoul newspaper sounded a more serious note by concluding that “the more China resorts to crude tactics that do not befit its global status, the more suspicious of its intentions its neighbors will grow.” The newspaper said Seoul ultimately might have to choose between China and the U.S.

After politely listening to the Chinese general, Mr. Kim was treated with a visit the next day to the army’s Third Guard Division, a military unit located outside Beijing that is renowned for its role in the Korean War fighting against the Americans and the South Koreans, a typical and less-than-subtle message of the kind frequently used by Beijing’s military.

South China Sea storms

Military and diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea continue to rise as China shows no sign of easing verbal and military posturing over its disputed sovereignty claims in the resource-rich South China Sea. On Tuesday, foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in the Indonesian resort of Bali to finesse and finalize, among other measures, a joint proposal to work with China on the South China Sea disputes. Four of its 10 member states — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — challenge China’s claim of control over most of the vast Southeast Asian waters.

However, ASEAN’s proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea so far has received a lukewarm response from Beijing. Instead, China is hyping its robust claims while accusing the United States of meddling “with ulterior motives” in the sovereignty claims.

Since last week, China’s state-controlled media has fired off a new anti-U.S. propaganda campaign: The purchase by the Philippines of a used U.S. Coast Guard ship, a Hamilton-class 3,300-ton cutter, as a patrol ship for Manila.

In response, on the day before the newly purchased ship set sail for Manila from San Francisco, the Chinese government announced its latest warship launching in Shanghai. The largest warship to date is the 19,000-ton amphibious dock-landing ship Jinggangshan, the second of China’s Type 071 ships. Jinggangshan refers to the mountainous area in Eastern China where the Communist Red Army was born. The official China Daily explained that name of the ship is “to show the love for the revolutionary base area and inherit and carry forward its revolutionary spirit.”

Violence in China’s northwest

Conflicting reports emerged this week about violent clashes between ethnic Uighurs and Chinese police in the ancient Silk Road city Hotan. Official government news outlets said Monday that Uighur separatist thugs stormed the police station, taking hostages, triggering shooting that left four people and “several” thugs killed. In line with Beijing’s propaganda, China attributed the incidents to what it calls “Three Forces” terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.

Hotan’s population is 90 percent Uighur, an ethnic group seeking more basic freedoms from Chinese control. The overseas-based World Uighur Congress disputed Beijing’s narrative Tuesday. “The shooting took place not at a police station, but at the close main bazaar of Hotan, in the Nurbagh area, when more than 100 local Uighurs peacefully gathered to protest a police crackdown imposed on the city for the last two weeks,” it said in a statement.

“Demonstrators gathered and demanded to know the whereabouts of relatives who had gone missing into police custody,” the group said. “Police [then] opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least 20 people.”

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