China, US navy leaders to meet amid tension

Updated: 2015-10-29 10:34

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington and ZHANG YUNBI in Beijing(

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Top Chinese and US navy officials are scheduled to meet on Thursday amid fresh tension in the South China Sea after a US warship illegally entered waters near a Chinese island on Tuesday.

China, US navy leaders to meet amid tension

The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sails in the Pacific Ocean in a November 2009 photo provided by the US Navy. [Photo/Agencies]

Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the People's Liberation Army Navy, and his US counterpart John Richardson, chief of the US Naval Operations, will hold an hour long video teleconference on Thursday, Reuters reported on Wednesday, quoting a US official.

It said the meeting was initiated by both officers to discuss recent operations in the South China Sea and naval relationship between the two countries.

Beijing continued to condemn the US action on the second day, as Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang called the incident "a serious political provocation against China".

The Thursday video conference will be followed by a visit to Beijing in early November by Harry Harris, the commander of the US Pacific Command, Harry Harris, will visit Beijing in early November, sources told China Daily on Wednesday.

Experts said Harris' visit will be a good chance to boost mutual understanding and make Washington better informed about China's resolution and policy preparations for managing the situation in the South China Sea.

Earlier on Tuesday, the guided-missile destroyer Lassen entered waters near Zhubi Reef without the permission of the Chinese government, leading to China's fierce protests, including summoning US Ambassador to China Max Baucus.

On Wednesday morning, Japan's public broadcaster NHK quoted an unnamed official with the US Department of Defense as saying that the two sides are expected to discuss bilateral military exchanges and that "boosting exchanges could build trust between the navies of the two countries" and help "avoid unintended clashes".

Both countries have tried not to let the incident spill over into the overall bilateral relationship, especially the military-to-military cooperation which has warmed up in the past few years.

The People's Liberation Army Navy hospital ship Peace Ark will pay a port call at San Diego, California, early next week, meeting their US counterparts and city leaders. It is part of the Mission Harmony conducted annually by the Peace Ark and this year's trip includes Australia, French affiliated Polynesia, Mexico, Barbados, Grenada and Peru and other countries.

Meanwhile, the PLA Navy fleet, which had completed their anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, is also going to pay a port call at Jacksonville, Florida. The fleet, which consists of missile destroyer Jinan, guided-missile frigate Yiyang and supply ship Qiandaohu, is also on a global tour with stops at Sudan, Egypt, Denmark, Sweden, Cuba and Australia.

Teng Jianqun, a senior research fellow on US studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Harris' visit "must have been a part of the annual plan of bilateral military exchanges".

"China's South China Sea policies won't be changed because of the incident on Tuesday," Teng said.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that "increased high-level contacts between the Chinese and US militaries is a good thing anyway".

"Especially, this could help the US side better perceive and understand China's actions in the South China Sea to champion legal rights and interests, have further recognition of China's island constructions and avoid misunderstanding or miscalculation," Zhang said.

At a regular news conference on Wednesday, Lu Kang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the US behavior "violated international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as domestic laws of China".

Writing in the Huffington Post on Wednesday, Amitai Etzioni, professor of international relations at the George Washington University, described the US assertions of freedom of navigation as "dangerous."

Etzioni said China has in recent decades often settled territorial disputes using negotiations that have led to settlements that neutral parties consider to be fair. "Resorting instead to military means is likely to increase tensions between the United States and China and could lead to military clashes," he said.

Etzioni criticized the US for appointing itself as a global judge based on unilateral decision. He argued that the US allies in the Asian region are unlikely to be reassured by such maneuvers if the US continues to seem to allow itself to be pushed around in the Middle East by Russia, Iran and terrorist groups.

"If the United States seeks to shore up its credibility, it would be better to show that it is able to ‘degrade and destroy ISIS,' as it committed itself to doing more than a year ago, rather than escalating and militarizing the conflict with China," he wrote.