BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s People Liberation Army demanded a tough response to U.S. plans to send an aircraft carrier to naval exercises near its coast, saying that “respect” was at stake.
A commentary in the Liberation Army Daily on Thursday laid bare rancor over Washington’s naval exercises with ally South Korea, and over its criticism of Chinese territorial claims to swathes of the South China Sea, where Taiwan and several Southeast Asian states also have claims.
“A country needs respect, and a military also needs respect. ‘If someone doesn’t hurt me, I won’t hurt him; but if someone hurts me, I must hurt him,” wrote Major General Luo Yuan in the paper.
“For the Chinese people and the Chinese military, those are by no means idle words.”
The angry commentary in the PLA’s top mouthpiece, carefully vetted by censors, also underscored Chinese military pressures weighing on Beijing as it crafts policy.
The U.S. and South Korea last month held a joint naval drill in the Sea of Japan off the Korean peninsula, which brought condemnation from China, which answered with its own heavily publicized military exercises.
A Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, last week said a U.S. aircraft carrier, the nuclear-powered George Washington, which joined in the earlier exercise, would participate in a follow-up drill in the Yellow Sea, between the Korean peninsula and China.
The July drill was also initially scheduled to take place in the Yellow Sea — closer to China’s shore — but was moved to other side of the Korean peninsula after objections from Beijing.
Morrell did not give a date for the next joint naval exercises, according a transcript on the Pentagon website. (www.defense.gov)
The PLA Daily commentary indicated that friction over any fresh U.S. military activities in seas near China would continue to dog relations between the two big economic powers.
The United States is “pushing its security boundary to the doorstep of others — the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and so on,” wrote Luo. “In their eyes, the security of other states and peoples is secondary, even meaningless.”
Chinese newspapers have carried several harsh commentaries since maritime tensions flared between Beijing and Washington, rekindling friction that unsettled ties earlier this year.
But Luo’s strong words in the Chinese military’s top newspaper suggest the PLA sees its prestige at stake and wants some response from Beijing.
“We don’t want make enemies of any country,” wrote Luo.
“But whoever ignores our solemn stance and core interests, persisting in doing as he pleases and bullying us too far, we will never fear.”
Beijing said the military exercises in nearby seas threatened its security. The United States and South Korea said they were aimed at deterring North Korea, which they blame for torpedoing a South Korean navy ship in March.
Luo is among a group of PLA officers who use blogs and newspapers as platforms to voice tough views on foreign policy issues. In February, he wrote that China could retaliate against U.S. arms sales to Taiwan by dumping its holdings of U.S. treasury bonds.
Editing by Ken Wills and Jonathan Thatcher