Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Carrier Group Went "Battle-Ready" Vs Chinese Sub, Destroyer

In the Taiwan Straits, according to a report by the Kyodo News Service.

The confrontation occurred as the Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and other ships in its battle group were heading back to Japan following China’s sudden cancellation of a long-scheduled holiday port call in Hong Kong, the China Times said, citing U.S. military sources.

The carrier strike group encountered Chinese destroyer Shenzhen and a Song-class sub in the strait on Nov. 23, causing the group to halt and ready for battle, as the Chinese vessels also stopped amid the 28-hour confrontation, the Chinese-language daily reported.

Adm. Timothy Keating, who heads the U.S. Pacific Command, is in Beijing this week to discuss what he has called China’s “perplexing” refusals, its worrisome weapons programs and U.S.-China military ties. He told reporters Tuesday that U.S. warships will cross through the Taiwan Strait whenever they choose to. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait,” Keating said, stressing that it is international waters. “We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose.”

But the reality is that the Kitty Hawk would not only be within range of land-based Chinese aviation in the Straits, but operating in confined waters against a quiet diesel-electric. It would be very vulnerable in that situation. We don't know what threats were actually perceived, but it's reasonable to infer that the Kitty Hawk group took matters seriously enough to increase their alert status, if the the Kyodo News story is accurate.

In any confrontation with the PROC, it's probable the Straits of Taiwan will be closed, which would would be tantamount to a blockade on China. Practically all shipping and oil tankers bound for either the ports of Hong Kong or Shanhai pass within a fairly close distance of the Straits. The Chinese might ambush and destroy a single carrier, but the USN could blockade China with devastating results. Since the Chinese increasingly depend on overseas trade and energy for their well-being, this confrontation was either an accident or brinksmanship. Which of the two it was is hard to say. It's probably in China's interest to keep the US guessing which.


Blogger Peter Grynch said...

A case of he-said-he-said:
White House spokesman Dana Perino told reporters on Wednesday that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔箎) told US President George W. Bush during their meeting in the Oval Office that the flap was simply a "misunderstanding."

However, she admitted that she was not at the meeting.

"I was not able to be there, but that's the readout that I have for you, and that's the explanation that was given to the president," Perino said.

The next day, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) contradicted Perino, linking the refusal to the issues of Taiwan and Tibet.

Despite the White House's earlier explanation, the Pentagon issued a formal protest to China over the incident, with Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for East Asia David Sedney summoning China's defense attache in Washington, Zhao Ning (趙寧), to deliver the complaint.

On Thursday, Perino expressed surprise over the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.

"Yesterday," she told reporters, "we were told there was a miscommunication. Today there are reports in the press that someone in the defense ministry is saying it had to do with other reasons."

"So we are asking for a clarification on that matter," she said.

The State Department had nothing to add to Perino's comments, saying that the White House was in charge of the matter.

Asked how the White House would say one thing and the Chinese Foreign Ministry something else, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "I would assume that the White House said that [it was a misunderstanding] because that's what they heard, and if there's any reports to the contrary coming out of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, that they're seeking clarification about those subsequent comments that have come out of the Foreign Ministry. And I know that the White House is handling that."


(I like printing the names in chinese pictographs!)

1/15/2008 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Lotsa things -- lots --about John McCain's politics I don't like, but boy we sure could use a Navy man up high in the next gov't.

1/15/2008 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Rem870 said...

Easy there, Buddy. Don't forget - Kerry was Navy. As was Carter. How 'bout a compromise - Fred Thompson has played at least one admiral in the movies.

1/15/2008 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

Sinking a carrier would be a huge escalation- we could lose more people than we've lost in the entire war since 9/11. Whatever tactical advanatage China gained would not make up for the anger aroused in the US. It would kill more sailors than Pearl Harbor.

The smart thing for China to do is bide its time and wait for an opportunity. Wait for weak US leadership or some distraction elsewhere. Try to intimidate Taiwan diplomatically, or strike so quickly that a demoralized US won't intervene.

Hitting a carrier would make that strategy impossible. We'd have 10 more, about 50 attack subs, and a lot of anger. The war would then continue for a long time.

1/15/2008 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

Of course, a lot of nations have made that kind of mistake in the past...

1/15/2008 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

In connection with the recent confrontation with Iran in the Straits of Hormuz, a commentator remarked that foreign powers messing with the US should be particularly careful in avoiding interference with our navy and freedom of the seas -- the United States has been particularly prickly on this point almost from the beginning, from the Quasi-war with Napoleon's France, to the Barbary Pirates, the War of 1812, the creation of an independent Panama so we could build the isthmus canal, the dispatch of the Great White Fleet, our entry into World War I, the attempt to limit Japanese naval strength in the Washington Naval Conference, the Gulf of Tonkin (even though faked), the Mayaguez incident, the reaction to the attacks by the Iranians in the 1980s, etc., etc. Smoothing over naval confrontations has been rare - the Panay incident, the Liberty incident with the Israelis, and the Pueblo incident with the North Koreans come to mind.

One thing that the US cannot tolerate, either from a strategic or economic viewpoint, is any significant interference with the freedom of the seas.

Unfortunately, our Navy may no longer be strong enough to enforce it without actually fighting -- it is only when a Navy is so strong that no power dare challenge it that fighting may not be required -- consider the British Navy during the 19th century when it operated on the rule that it should have more capital ships than the next two largest navies combined.

1/16/2008 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

If you are a Chicom mucky-muck then Taiwan is probably worth a couple billion in your Swiss account. Hell yes, I would try to push the USN out of the Taiwan Straits.

But not too hard because probably more than any other single factor the US Fleet makes global trade possible. Buying US debt is a lot cheaper than building a blue water navy.

1/16/2008 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Here's a nice piece on the mid 80s shoot'm up in the Persian Gulf:

1/16/2008 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Many, many dependents flew to Hong Kong to meet the ship. The PRC royally screwed these families and ruined their holidays.

Now with the BS in the Straights, the Chinese have seriously PISSED OFF the Kitty Hawk and her battle group. This anger will spread to the other carrier battle groups.

This will make the navy surface and aviation components ruthlessly aggressive during future battles with the PRC. Everyone will be looking to pay the PRC back and keep paying them back.

1/16/2008 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

We have our hands full dealing with the Islamic fascists. We really don't need a conflict with the Red Chinese.

The Chinese are rational and their economy is dependent upon continued trade with the US. Surely we can negotiate with these people?

1/16/2008 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...

"The Chinese are rational and their economy is dependent upon continued trade with the US. Surely we can negotiate with these people?"

It depends on who you mean by 'these people.'

Hu Jintao serves as President, General Secretary of the Communist Party, and the Central Military Commission, which overseas the armed forces. The CMC's primary function, in addition is to support the Communist Party.

If the Communist Part ever feel threatened by too much internal unrest, I could see them using Taiwan as an excuse to rally the country around. The Chinese people are extremely nationalistic, and I believe, would fall for such a smoke screen.

My wife was originally from Shanghai, and we spend a lot of time there. I have been traveling there for the past 20 years.

Although I try to read up on China, particularly their recent history, I am no means an expert. But, one thing I will say on this subject I think speaks volumes.

My wife and I are Christians. If you were ever to press us on a moral issue, we would hopefully try to do what is right.

I mention this because whenever the topic comes up about Taiwan in our household - we have a lot of friends from Taiwan and we never bring this topic up with them, My wife will go on about Taiwan being part of China, until I point out the obvious fact that Taiwan is free and should be allowed to chose for themselves if they want to be united; I try to tap into her Christian Self, and not her Chinese, which, after a pause, she ultimately comes around to.

It is the pause, though, that concerns me most. Because in that pause is all sorts of 'Ancient Chinese History'/Nationalistic Pride is wrapped into, despite my positioning this from a moral perspective. I am sure she is not unique.

So, we shall see.

What is interesting though is that Taiwan really is a recent territory of China. It did not fall under Chinese rule until the Ming Dynasty in 1430, and for much of its history from that time on, it was a colony - Portuguese (who named it Formosa - Beautiful Island) in 1590, Dutch in 1595 & became colony in 1624, later the British, and then the Japanese.

While claims to Taiwan are stronger for the Chinese than anyone in the west, they are not really that much stronger; unless, ultimately the Taiwanese people wish to be united.

1/16/2008 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

The language bondings in these cases is huge, of course.

1/16/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...

Buddy larsen said:

"The language bondings in these cases is huge, of course."

Indeed they are. Also the Chinese cultural heritage. But that does not mean they wish to be ruled by the Communist Party.

Taiwan also has strong & very fond ties with Japan. This is surprising, because Japan has left such a foul taste with most asian countries during their colonizing period (pre and during WWII). Except for Taiwan.

During the Japanese colonization of Taiwan, mostly done by the zaibatsu's (corporations such as mitsui, mistubishi, sumitomo, etc.,), they made a lot of capital improvements, building railroads and other infrastructure. They also built schools and they started redistributing land on a more equitable nature.

While the Taiwanese were still treated as second class citizens, their lot was better off than the Chinese on the main land.

When Cheng Kai Shek lost China (twice) and fled to Taiwan, he was smart enough to leverage what was built by the Japanese, including various social programs, including the redistribution of land.

One smart element of this land redistribution under Cheng Kai Shek was in return for land, that was then given to peasants, the former owners of the land were given bonds and equity in the newly formed industries being built, which became very successful.

1/16/2008 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...

Unlike the mainland Chinese and Koreans who hate the Japanese (for good reason, I am afraid. The Japanese were very brutal), the Taiwanese look on the Japanese fondly.

1/16/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

shivermetimbers said:

"My wife and I are Christians. If you were ever to press us on a moral issue, we would hopefully try to do what is right.

I mention this because whenever the topic comes up about Taiwan in our household - we have a lot of friends from Taiwan and we never bring this topic up with them, My wife will go on about Taiwan being part of China, until I point out the obvious fact that Taiwan is free and should be allowed to chose for themselves if they want to be united; I try to tap into her Christian Self, and not her Chinese, which, after a pause, she ultimately comes around to.

It is the pause, though, that concerns me most. Because in that pause is all sorts of 'Ancient Chinese History'/Nationalistic Pride is wrapped into, despite my positioning this from a moral perspective. I am sure she is not unique."

My wife grew up in Japan, moving to the Phillipines when she was 16 to attend boarding school. Nationalistic Pride is something she is quite familiar with relative to Asian cultures...

Your comments relative to "the pause" reminded me of The Niihau Incident. My html fails me, but you can read more at:




1/16/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger always right said...

Taiwanese in my grandparent's and my mother's generations were under Japanese rule (for over 50 years, I’ll check history on that), raised regarding Japanese emperor as their ruler. Apart from the Taiwanese dialect, they speak better Japanese (their second language) than official Chinese (Mandarin). While WWII liberated Taiwan from Japanese rule, more Taiwanese were killed by American bombs and planes as they were forces to be cannon fodder. [I am not making excuses for them.]

When Shivermetimbers said “Taiwanese look on Japanese fondly”, it is partially true. The younger generations (1) need Japanese business and view them as any other race/nation to do business with; (2) were pretty angry at the Japanese trying to erase/whitewash their role in the WWII history (i.e. Japan did not “INVADE” China, and Japanese are the ONLY victims of the WWII due to the two A-bombs).

1/16/2008 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...

I did claim not to be an expert :-)

But, in my conversations with folks who remember the period before Cheng Kai Shek came to Taiwan in 1949, (or were told by their relatives), that while under Japanese rule was not enjoyable, they were treated better than by Cheng and his men. Is this true, or not, I don't know.

But, getting back to the Chinese, and what worries me.

I remember reading an article in foreign affairs sometime in the 1980's while traveling to China. I believe the article was written by Lucian Pye (I am not sure, but the writer was Ford Professor at MIT specializing in China).

In the article, he described the historical power structure in China, whether ruled by communists or emperor, was pseudo sovereign relationship, in that the emperor would act like he had complete control and ruled over his territories, and the subjects would act like they were ruled by him. But in reality, they were left to themselves unless they pushed too far, and that there was a fragile balance in this relationship.

I think this is still very much true. Many of the provinces in China are left to their own devices, and therefore are plagued with corruption. The government really does not have a handle on things unless these provinces push too far.

An interesting book on modern China is Wild Grass, by Ian Johnson, where he recounts what happened to a Falun Gong movement in China. They were given tremendous leeway because their movement was not noticed by the Communist Party, until they pushed their luck too far and began to protest right under the CCP’s head quarters. The party officials were, “who the heck are these people,” and cracked down on them with full force. This is when you heard about grand mothers who practices falun gong having their teeth kicked in, while in police custody.

What concerns me is the amount of civil unrest, often times, completely justifiable – pollution, slave labor, payment of wages, religious freedom, etc., that the Communist Party does not have a handle on, and the provinces themselves are so corrupt. If it gets out of control for the government, will they turn to Taiwan to refocus this angst and try to save their necks?

Going back to an earlier question of:

"The Chinese are rational and their economy is dependent upon continued trade with the US. Surely we can negotiate with these people?"

My response is that the first order of business for the Communist Party is not loyalty to their own people – a clear mandate in the Central Military Commission is to save their own necks. And while loosing business with the US would be devastating, that decision would have to be balanced by their losing grip on power.

1/16/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger RDS said...

“Taiwanese look on Japanese fondly”

Interesting. I had read the Japanese encouraged the Chinese Taiwanese to hunt, and eat, the aboriginal people of the island, as part of their suppression of the tribes.

I hadn't imagined the Chinese might not have minded so much.

Despite their passion for collecting heads, the aborigines seem not to have eaten their victims. Some Han settlers, however, showed no such qualms.

The Canadian Presbyterian missionary Mackay records coming across a crowd awaiting the execution of an aboriginal warrior, noting: "Scores were there on purpose to get parts of the body for food and medicine ... the heart is eaten, flesh taken off in strips, and bones boiled to a jelly and preserved as a specific for malarial fever."

In The Island Of Formosa; Past and Present; History, People, Resources and Commercial Prospects, James W. Davidson, the first US consul stationed in Taiwan, writes: "One horrible feature of the campaign against the savages was the sale by the Chinese in open market of savage flesh. Impossible as it may seem that a race with such high pretensions to civilization and religion should be guilty of such barbarity, yet such is the truth. After killing a savage, the head was commonly severed from the body and exhibited to those who were not on hand to witness the prior display of slaughter and mutilation. The body was then either divided among its captors and eaten, or sold ... The kidney, liver, heart, and soles of the feet were considered the most desirable portions, and were ordinarily cut up into very small pieces, boiled and eaten somewhat in the form of soup ... The Chinese profess to believe, in accordance with an old superstition, that the eating of savage flesh will give them strength and courage ... During the outbreak of 1891, savage flesh was brought in -- in baskets -- the same as pork, and sold like pork in the markets of Tokoham before the eyes of all, foreigners included."

1/16/2008 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger shivermetimbers said...


You talk about a practice (one that I was not aware of, but will check), that existed long before the Japanese got there. The scene that James Davidson quotes is from 1891. Taiwan did not become a Japanese colony until 1895.

But, I see folks a latching onto the word 'fondly,' which in retrospect, may be a little too strong - (heck, there are not many nations I am fond of).

My point was that while Japan has a terrible track record in much of Asia, and are despised in a number of countries, China and Korea, they are not in Taiwan. The Japanese treated the 'Han' people, not the aborigine, in many cases better than Cheng Kai Shek did when he first got there.

Thus, when we look at Japan, along with the US signing on to protect Taiwan in case of attack, it did not raise eyebrows with the Taiwanese.

1/17/2008 04:30:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

If Taiwan really wants independence, a secret nuclear weapons program is the only way to go. That way, all of China's aviation, battallions, and ships aren't worth shit. It would simply be China's nukes versus Taiwan's nukes, the result is deterrence.

After all, China's puppet North Korea has them, two can play the game.

1/19/2008 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

As an ironic aside: While visiting Taiwan on business, I made sure to visit the National Museum in Taipei. Despite being used to extremely high quality art exhibitions, some of the displayed jade and bronze works were still quite astounding.

Now, harken back to the mainland government shrilling about the Taiwanese thieves who have stolen ancient patrimony from its rightful heirs.

The farcical hypocrisy of this resides in how much of the museum's contents would have been smashed or heaped upon bonfires during the "cultural revolution". That some of history's worst vandals have the unmitigated gall to call such ardent preservers of history "thieves" goes well beyond the pale.

As the world's 18th economy Taiwan is nothing short of an industrial powerhouse. With only 1/50th of the mainland's population, tiny Taiwan has 1/10th the GDP of the PRC. While in Taoyuan, I was amazed at being able to walk safely through an overcrowded, polluted city of one million people with congested streets, noisy crowds and yet never see one speck of grafitti. After searching for an entire week, I found some on a train overcrossing.

The Taiwanese were some of the most gracious, kind and friendly people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in all of my travels. At a restaurant, complete strangers took me under their wing and invited me to help them taste test their choice of wedding cake, after which they took me on a guided tour of old Taoyuan's woodworking district. Nor would they accept a single penny from me for the lunch or even my bus fare back to the hotel.

Happily, my study of Asian traditions paid off and the young couple had a traditional Red Envelope stuffed with $100ND awaiting them at their wedding. My experience in Taiwan was not just a culmination of decades spent studying Asian culture but so profoundly touching that I have often felt "homesick" for that "Beautiful Island".

I would return in a heartbeat.

China must not be allowed to rape this jewel of the Pacific. As Peter noted, all Taiwan represents to the Chinese politburo's Mandarins is so many millions more to pocket and this must not be allowed to happen. Robert is absolutely right and I hope Taiwan constructs its own nuclear umbrella. China has much to lose. With even just one strike against the Three Gorges Dam, millions would die. Taiwan would not even need nuclear weapons to achieve such a goal. I wish them well.

1/19/2008 01:42:00 AM  

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