Rising Red tide: China encircles U.S. by sailing warships in American waters, arming neighbors

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The locations of the incursions were not given but they likely included submarine or warship visits to the western Pacific island of Guam, a key U.S. military base.

A Chinese military official initially stated at the conference that the incursions were part of a People’s Liberation Army Navy effort at “reciprocating” for frequent U.S. Navy transits through China’s 200-mile EEZs along the coasts. The zones are technically international waters and China has claimed U.S. transits are “illegal” under international law.

It is not clear why China is conducting naval operations it considers illegal for its maritime boundaries inside U.S. EEZs.

“They are, and we encourage their ability to do that,” Locklear said, without explaining why the activity was encouraged or where the Chinese vessels had transited.

Larry Wortzel, a former military intelligence official and specialist on China, said the Chinese military has sent intelligence collection ships into Guam’s economic zone and also the zone around the Hawaiian islands.

“The EEZ transits may indicate that in the future they could revise their position on the Law of the Sea and military activities,” Wortzel said.

Wortzel said he does not see China’s efforts in South and Central America as a counter to the U.S. Asia pivot.

Chinese arms sales, military exchanges, investment and developmenet has been underway for a decade, he said.

The Financial Times, which first disclosed the Chinese EEZ forays, quoted one Chinese military source as saying, “we are considering this as a practice, and we have tried it out, but we clearly don’t have the capacity to do this all the time like the U.S. does here.”

On Chinese inroads in the western hemisphere, Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst, said China is moving strategically on Latin America, working methodically as part of a decades-long effort to build economic and political clout there.

“It has cultivated far better military relations with the openly anti-American regimes in the region and could become a sort of political-economic godfather to ensure the survival of the Castro dictatorship system in Cuba,” said Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Intelligence cooperation with Cuba is “substantial,” Fisher says, and will expand sharply in the region through the activities of its state-run telecommunications firms such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE in the region.

China currently is “promoting almost all of its non-nuclear weapons in that region,” Fisher said.

“It has promoted the Chengdu J-10 4th generation fighter in Venezuela and Argentina, and even Peru may be considering the J-10 for its future fighter program,” he said.

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

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