Pentagon yields to China’s demand and withdraws aircraft carrier

East-Asia-Intel.com, September 1, 2010

The Pentagon has given in to Chinese military demands that no U.S. aircraft carrier strike group take part in upcoming Yellow Sea war games with U.S. and South Korean warships.

A U.S. military spokesman in South Korea, Kim Yong-Kyu, told Agence France Presse Aug. 19 that “the September exercise is an anti-submarine drill and will not involve any U.S. aircraft carrier.”

The announcement followed numerous statements by Chinese military officials that a carrier in the Yellow Sea would be viewed by China as a threat to China and would prompt unspecified retaliation.

When it was reported in August that the Pentagon had not decided on whether to send a carrier to the sea, the Pentagon stated that no decision had been made but that a carrier group will operate in the area in the future.

Chinese Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu told state-run media July 19 that the Yellow Sea is a “sensitive area.” He said sending the aircraft carrier strike group there would be a threat because its combat attack radius would cover all of China and its reconnaissance reach would penetrate deep inside the country. “If the United States truly wants to take into account the overall interests of the Sino-U.S. relationship, then it must on no account send its USS Washington to the Yellow Sea,” Zhu said.

Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon official and specialist on Chinese military affairs, said a decision not to send the carrier to the Yellow Sea exercises would reflect a two-decades-old, misguided U.S. policy that incorrectly “sought to reassure Chinese paranoid views about U.S. intentions.”

“The many dissenters who claim this approach will not work have always been overruled,” Pillsbury told the Washington Times. “The dilemma has been to find a metric that will reveal whether this long-term strategy has been effective, or whether we are causing the Chinese to assess us to be a declining power that does not dare challenge China anymore.”

“The decision about whether and when to deploy a carrier to the west of the Korean Peninsula should be driven primarily by the requirement to assure our ally and deter North Korea against further provocations,” said Stephen Yates, an Asian-affairs specialist and former White House national security official in the Bush administration. “Alleged Chinese sensitivities should not be a factor.”

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