Adm. Keating Urges Chinese To Ease Hostilities, Tensions
Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the Pacific Command, urged Chinese leaders to improve relations with the United States, during a visit to China.
Some military analysts, however, see China becoming steadily more warlike in its actions, bristling with more missiles, aircraft, submarines and ships, and crowding the United States in the Western Pacific.
Keating’s comments come after China fired a ground-based missile that demolished a weather satellite in orbit, fired a ground-based laser that disabled a U.S. military satellite, and deployed more than 1,000 missiles aimed toward Taiwan that could threaten U.S. Navy ships in the Taiwan Strait.
As well, China abruptly cancelled an authorized visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier to Hong Kong, meaning families of carrier crew members waiting ashore in Hong Kong didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving with them. And a Chinese ship and submarine reportedly brought to a halt a fleet of U.S. Navy ships in the Taiwan Strait. But a Navy source said that the reports were untrue.
"The last thing we want is a confrontation, whether in the air, on the sea or under the sea," Keating told reporters in a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in China, according to The Los Angeles Times.
But China for years has gone out of its way to provoke confrontation, in repeated incidents:
- On the sea, China sent one of its submarines sneaking up on a U.S. carrier group, then had the sub surface so that American naval officers could see that it was in torpedo range, five miles, from the carrier.
- In the air, China sent a fighter plane aloft, and it aggressively came steadily closer to a U.S. Navy intelligence aircraft that was flying peaceably in international airspace, finally colliding with the Navy EP-3 intelligence plane. The aircraft almost crashed with two dozen Navy men and women in uniform aboard. When the crippled craft made an emergency landing at Hainan Island, Chinese territory, People’s Liberation Army personnel charged aboard, attempted to compromise secret U.S. technology, and held the Americans for 10 days until the United States apologized for landing there.
- China also canceled, abruptly, its permission for two Navy ships to gain refuge from a storm in a Chinese harbor.
- In the 1990s, China fired missiles at Taiwan, and twice prompted then-President Clinton to send aircraft carrier groups into the Strait to pressure Beijing into lowering tensions.
These and other incidents have raised concerns that China is becoming increasingly bellicose, even as it arms itself with cutting-edge aircraft, destroyers, submarines, and hundreds of missiles of every range and payload.
Keating’s entreaties to China to adopt a peaceful, constructive stance are but the latest in a series of visits to China by U.S. civilian and military leaders.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also journeyed to China, as did Adm. Michael Mullen, who now is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The concern in Washington is that China has been secretive about why it is on a colossal arms-buying binge, snapping up hardware suited to global military action rather than to prosecuting traditionally regional or local Chinese military goals.
For example, Taiwan is an island nation that China sees as a rebel province, demanding that Taiwan submit to its rule. If Taiwan continues to refuse, China has vowed to invade the island. But the United States in that instance would be committed to defend Taiwan.
Questions have arisen as to why, when Taiwan is but 100 miles from the Chinese mainland, and lacks advanced military hardware, China is procuring planes that can go thousands of miles, missiles with ranges of up to 5,000 miles or more, submarines with limitless range that can fire intercontinental ballistic missiles, anti-satellite weapons and more.
Some analysts say the answer is obvious: China is preparing to take on U.S. forces, possibly driving them back while Chinese forces overrun Taiwan.
But in meetings with Americans, Chinese civilian and military leaders have offered only vague explanations, saying the massive military buildup is to create a coastal defense force, or to overcome Taiwanese military forces, or to protect sea lanes already protected by the U.S. Navy.