Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Brewing Storm?

I recently did a post about the military hotline that China and the US recently agreed to establish. Among other things, here's what I concluded:

China is one area where the Bush administration doesn't get some credit it deserves. The amount of trust-building measures and joint exercises that have taken place is actually pretty surprising, if you think about where things started (the Hainan airmen) as well as some of the provocation China has engaged in since (the anti-satellite test).

But as if to demonstrate that it never pays to rush a compliment of the Bush administration into print, along comes the Hong Kong harbor controversy:

The saga of a U.S. aircraft carrier being denied entry to Hong Kong at Thanksgiving took a bizarre turn Nov. 29, when China denied saying the whole affair had been a misunderstanding.

The White House said Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had told President George W. Bush as much Nov. 28...

"Reports that Foreign Minister Yang said in the United States that it was a misunderstanding do not accord with the facts," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference.

China later had a change of heart and granted entry, but by that time the Kitty Hawk carrier group was on its way back to Japan. Be that as it may, if the denial of entry wasn't a misunderstanding, is it possible our friends in Peking were trying to pass along a little message? Here's Liu again:

"We think that generally communication, talks and exchanges are progressing smoothly. Both sides have smooth communication on bilateral and international issues," he added. "But it should be pointed out that recently, bilateral relations have been interfered with and damaged by mistaken actions by the U.S. For example, U.S. leaders have met the Dalai Lama. Also on the Taiwan question, China approves of the U.S. opposing Taiwan’s U.N. entry referendum. At the same time, we have grave concern with U.S. arms sales to Taiwan."

In addition to turning away the Kitty Hawk, China also recently denied access to Hong Kong harbor to two American minesweepers seeking refuge from a "brewing storm":

China's denial of their request violated "an unwritten rule among seamen that if someone is in need, regardless of genus, phylum or species, you let them come in -- you give them safe harbor," Keating said.

"Jimmy Buffet has songs about it, for crying out loud," he said.

We've got a lot of fragile (nuclear eggs) in our China basket at the moment. The North Korean declaration of activities is due to the Six Nations group any day now. And once Javier Solana delivers his EU report on Iran's nuclear program, negotiations will begin in earnest for a third round of Security Council sanctions. Maybe this is just China's way of reminding the Bush administration that if we want a quid, we've got to be willing to give up some quos.

Posted by Judah in:  China   

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