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China warships up ante
U.S. military intelligence agencies have been closely monitoring the Chinese for just such an escalation, according to a U.S. official.
On Monday, state-run media outlets in China reported that the People’s Liberation Army added two destroyers and nine other warships to its lightly armed maritime surveillance fleet, a separate sea service that is under control of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission.
Tencent, a major Chinese news portal, stated Monday that the ships were transferred to “alleviate the insufficiency of vessels used to protect maritime interests,” Agence France-Presse reported from Beijing.
“The maritime surveillance team’s power has been greatly strengthened and its capacity to execute missions sharply improved, providing a fundamental guarantee for completing the currently arduous task to protect maritime interests,” wrote Yu Zhirong, with Beijing’s Research Center for Chinese Marine Development in another official press report.
Tensions are especially high between China and Japan over Beijing’s claims to the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets located between Okinawa and Taiwan that China is claiming as its territory. The new Liberal Democratic Party government in Japan is expected to take a tougher posture toward Chinese claims to the Senkakus than its more liberal predecessor government.
The lack of Chinese naval forces in disputes among Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and India was a key indicator of limited Chinese assertiveness, according to Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.
Adm. Locklear said during two speeches in Washington last month that the disputes with China had not reached crisis levels so far because the forces involved were limited to “coast guard level” forces.
The four-star admiral said it was important for all parties to avoid conflict and make sure “we don’t unnecessarily introduce war-fighting apparatus into these decisions or these discussions.”
Adm. Locklear repeated the Obama administration’s position that Washington doesn’t “take sides” in the disputes, even though the United States has a defense pact with Japan that requires defending Tokyo from a Chinese attack.
The new Chinese warships will operate in the East China Sea, where the dispute with Japan is taking place, and in the South China Sea, where Beijing is claiming control over 90 percent of the sea and challenging claims by the Philippines and Vietnam.
N. Korean missile propaganda
North Korea on Jan. 1 published a new propaganda poster highlighting what the Pentagon is calling the communist state’s first successful long-range missile launch, and Pyongyang is hailing as a space launcher for satellites.
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About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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