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Rising Red tide: China encircles U.S. by sailing warships in American waters, arming neighbors
China has been quietly taking steps to encircle the United States by arming western hemisphere states, seeking closer military, economic, and diplomatic ties to U.S. neighbors, and sailing warships into U.S. maritime zones.
The strategy is a Chinese version of what Beijing has charged is a U.S. strategy designed to encircle and “contain” China. It is also directed at countering the Obama administration’s new strategy called the pivot to Asia. The pivot calls for closer economic, diplomatic, and military ties to Asian states that are increasingly concerned about Chinese encroachment throughout that region.
“The Chinese are deftly parrying our ‘Pivot to the Pacific’ with their own elegant countermoves,” said John Tkacik, a former State Department Asia hand.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to question President Barack Obama about the U.S. pivot during the summit meeting set to begin Friday afternoon in California. Chinese state-run media have denounced the new U.S. policy as an effort to “contain” China and limit its growing power.
The Chinese strategy is highlighted by Xi’s current visit to Trinidad, Costa Rica, and Mexico where he announced major loans of hundreds of millions of dollars that analysts say is part of buying influence in the hemisphere.
U.S. officials say the visit to the region has several objectives, including seeking to bolster Chinese arms sales to the region amid efforts by Russian arms dealers to steal market share.
States including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Mexico recently purchased Chinese arms but are said to be unhappy with the arms’ low quality. For example, Chinese YLC radar sold to Ecuador in 2009 did not work properly and sales of Chinese tanks to Peru also ran into quality problems. Both states are now looking to buy Russian weaponry, a U.S. official said.
Venezuela, a key oil-producing U.S. adversary, announced Thursday that China agreed to a $4 billion loan for oil development.
And in Mexico this week, Xi announced China is extending a $1 billion line of credit for oil development and pledged another $1 billion trade deal.
A joint Mexico-China statement said Mexico pledged not to interfere in China’s affairs on Taiwan and Tibet, a reference to the previous government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon who in 2011 invited exiled Tibetan leader the Dalia Lama, a move that angered Beijing.
U.S. officials say there are concerns that the pro-Beijing shift by the current government of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who visited China in April, will be exploited by China for such political goals, and could be used to generate support for China’s claims to Japan’s Senkaku Islands.
U.S. officials said there are growing fears that some type of military confrontation could break out between China and Japan over the disputed islands that are said to contain large underwater gas and oil reserves.
North of the U.S. border, Canada this week concluded a military cooperation agreement with China during the visit to Beijing by Canadian Defense Minister Peter G. Mackay. The agreement calls for closer cooperation between the two militaries, including bilateral military exchanges.
Chinese ambassador to Canada Zhang Junsai said China is deepening ties to Canada for infrastructure development, in Calgary last month. Chinese state-run companies have spent $30 billion for Canadian oil sands and natural gas, he said.
At a security conference in Singapore last month, the commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, Adm. Samuel Locklear, confirmed the earlier disclosure by a Chinese military officer that China’s military has been conducting naval incursions into the 200-mile U.S. Economic Exclusion Zone around U.S. territory.
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