Naval incident seen as test of US' China policy

12 March 2009



The confrontation between a US Navy surveillance ship and five Chinese vessels in the South China Sea exposed China's interference with the freedom of navigation by peaceful foreign warships on the high seas, according to Dr Ben Saul.

Interviewed for  the  South China Morning Post,  Dr Saul said that China's actions could also increase regional fears about its military build-up.

"There is no evidence that, for example, the US vessel was involved in piracy or some other unlawful activity which would permit China to interfere with the Impeccable," Dr Saul asserted.

"It is difficult to know the motives of the Chinese vessels. But of course, it could be designed to demonstrate China's growing naval strength in the area and to deter US vessels from operating in the seas near China.

"[The incident] will stimulate further naval arms races in the [Asia-Pacific] region," he added
"Australia is considering purchasing more submarines soon, partly to counter the build-up of naval weapons by regional powers such as China."

Contact: Greg Sherington

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